When I come home from work, I open the door and find the staircase is made of hands. Hands of all different shapes and colors and caught in different poses, tucked in together like leaves. I pluck one that seems roughly the same hue and size as mine, grasp its palm, and immediately break into a sweat. The palms are calloused in the way my father’s hands were, and I find this to be towering, the memory of his touch. And when I’m ready to let go, the hand with my father’s touch hangs on. I can’t shake it loose. So I end up carrying it around with me; it grasps even as I relax my grip. It stays there on my morning jogs. It clings to me as I try and drive through the winding suburbs, is present under the table when I’m eating dinner. The longer it stays, the heavier it gets, and soon my shoulder is strained all the time. My posture sinks. I learn to do everything with my opposite hand. It’s been a year since we spoke, and the urge to find fire is constantly scraping at the back of my neck, creeping into my desire to burn the hand off or sear it there forever.
I could start with landing in bed with bourbon on the breath. The five-year plan and rebuild. The countless phone calls and sports texts. I could start with the time when my father and I flew together over the lake, how we shrunk down and climbed on top of a pair of swans. I could start with a willowy set of arms searching for embrace after five years of silence. I could start with the fact that this is all shadowed want and desire stretching over an imperfect stomach. I could start with staring in the mirror, with being bent over the toilet, fingers in the back of my mouth. But instead the real starting point is the shallow culvert outside the church where he confronted me. Where the words flew out loud and thick. Thunder overhead. It starts with the rejection of his marriage, the quickening of the distance between us as the other woman looked on.
Luke Wortley is a writer living in Indianapolis, Indiana. His fiction and poetry have appeared or are forthcoming in monkeybicycle, Hobart, Best Microfictions, Pithead Chapel, Cincinnati Review, and elsewhere. You can follow him on Twitter (@LukeWortley) or visit https://www.lukewortley.com/