She glances fleetingly at her hands- hands that look as if it belongs to a 90-year-old and wonders what would happen if her hands could talk.

She holds them up and sees the lines, the scars, the clean but broken fingernails. “Could my hands be a reflection of the life I have lived,” she ponders.

As dusk falls, the light from outside is dimming, casting an almost “romantic” light across her hands, concealing the imperfections, the scars and the pain-pain that was her regular companion. The veins, popping out as if they were crying for release from everyday work. 

“When did my knuckles become swollen,” Her knuckles were too swollen sometimes to make a fist. 

It was too late for her nails, broken, bitten, grey and neglected, to be rescued by a manicure, no matter how professional the beauty therapist may be. 

She holds her hands face down and vividly recalls the time she was about 6- years- old when she failed to hand in her homework and the teacher, not waiting or interested in hearing her reason, punished her with 3 “canings” for each hand. The cane stung, and the memory brought tears to her eyes as if it was yesterday. Her hands were throbbing from the pain and started swelling- she wanted to cry- but was instructed to sit down and continue writing. “I will not forget my homework,” she had to write until the end of the page. She never ended up telling the teacher that they had run out of candles at home, resulting in her being unable to do her homework.

At 16, she felt like the world was at her feet! When she completes school, she dreamed about being an air hostess and travelling to see the world. It was why she washed her hands gently, always moisturized and had beautifully filed and painted nails. After all, she reasoned that people would not want food served by someone whose hands were cracked and dry.

She smiles as she recalls how beautiful her hands looked during that period in her life. She never became the air hostess she wanted to be because she had to leave school and contribute to the household expenses.

So many years later, when her babies were still little, she carried them, loved them and nurtured them with the hands she now barely recognizes. 

She pulls her mind back from the past to the present and gets up to pick up the few dishes scattered haphazardly around the house. 

As she dips her hands into the water in the sink, the water, laced with strong-smelling detergent (designed to “kill all the germs”), she laughs at how in the first phase of her marriage, she would always wear rubber gloves as protection for her hands- until finances changed, and gloves became an “unnecessary expense.” And so, through the years, she never used gloves again and unwittingly exposed her hands to the neglect and abuse she would never have allowed on the rest of her body. 

She rubs the lotion on her hands before bed, knowing that no lotion could serve as a “wonder potion, “strong enough to beautify hands that have scrubbed floors, hammered nails, chopped onions, planted vegetables, and so on. She exercises them as the lotion sets in because her hands have started to pain. The doctor said it was the beginning of arthritis, but she knew better. She knew that neglecting her hands during her lifetime has led to this moment- a moment where she almost “welcomed” arthritis, knowing that the disease could serve as a valid reason why she needed to rest her hands. 

Later, as she was about to put her hands together in prayer, she vowed that during her remaining years on earth, she would be kinder and more loving to the hands that have carried her through so much. Hands that have been “faithfully” working for her when the rest of her body couldn’t.

After prayers, she glanced at her hands again, and her heart stopped beating for a few seconds because her hands no longer looked as ugly as she thought they were. Yes, her hands were scarred, gnarled, wrinkled and calloused, but every imperfection had a memory of how she loved. She loved through and with her hands, and that was never a bad thing.

She placed her head peacefully on the pillow, cupping her face with her hands and went to sleep.