My Father’s Hands

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There was something about my father’s hands—something that captivated me. Soft, dark hair dusted the area just above the knuckles, and thick veins stood prominent beneath the weathered skin. His fingers were large and strong, yet quick and clever. They were hands equally capable of crushing or caressing. Powerful hands; gentle hands. The hands of an artist—the hands of a carpenter.

I spent most of my childhood watching those hands. Dad had been carving wood and building furniture since he was thirteen, and yet I swore he did it with more skill and acuity than any man twice his age. I was astounded at how he could turn an ordinary, ugly block of wood into something beautiful, something alive. And I was even more fascinated by the process of it: each careful, tedious stroke of his chisel. Each breath he took. The intense, almost severe look of concentration in his eyes. The beads of sweat that gathered at his forehead—little pearls of his passion. The way his large body hunched over his work—the way his strained and tired muscles shook and yet continued to labor, as though he was a slave to his own masterpiece. I used to sit on the table in his workshop and take guesses at what he was brining to life with his hands—A swan? A buck? A little toy house? I never guessed right, and would often bother him to tell me. “Just wait and see,” he would say, without even the slightest bit of annoyance. I think he secretly enjoyed my inquisition. I’d detect a tug at the corner of his lips—the hint of a smile breaking through his mask of concentration—and, delighted, I would start sputtering random and ridiculous guesses, just to see that smile. Eventually I’d guess something like “Cyclops” and he’d start laughing. That was always my prize: his laugh. Warm, deep, honest. Just like the rest of him.

After Mom died, I rarely saw him smile. And never the laugh—no, it seemed in the years following the funeral, that sound faded to my memory. By the time I turned thirteen, I wasn’t sure if Dad was still capable of laughing. He slowly shrank into himself—closed up—as though some curtain were being pulled between him and the rest of the world. With every passing day, it got harder for me to see behind that curtain, and harder for him to peer back out. His eyes—the bright, blazing coals in the fire of my childhood—became cold, vulnerable, guarded. I rarely saw him; he shut himself up in his workshop day and night. I was no longer allowed to watch him work. Sometimes in the wee hours of the morning, I’d wake up to the sound of his violin coming from his workshop. Sad, mournful music. Most nights I drowned in that music, cried myself back to sleep. And I know he did the same.

While Dad’s depression ran rampant, his business seemed to flourish. When Mom was still alive he usually turned out one piece of furniture a week. After her death, because he did nothing else, Dad was selling multiple dining room sets and bookcases every month. By day he built, by night he sculpted. He was consumed by it. Some days I didn’t see him at all; I’d get up alone, eat alone, catch the bus alone. And when I got home from school, the house was dark and quiet. I’d make myself a lousy dinner and go to bed, wondering if I would wake to sounds of his violin. Some nights, I’d open my eyes just in time to see him pass by the bathroom in the hallway. I used to leave the light on the bathroom—not only for my own comfort, but so he wouldn’t trip in the dark, narrow hallway. I’d see him cross in front of the gold rectangle and disappear into the pitch-black of his bedroom, which was directly across from mine. He usually left the door open behind him, but some nights, he closed it tight. On those nights, I heard him crying to himself softly. I’d wake up the next morning in a fog, wondering how I let my Dad become a ghost.

Some part of me hated him for it. For neglecting me. For hiding. And yet, I could never seem to get angry at him. How could I hurt my kind, gentle father when he needed me the most? And yet, the more I tried to comfort him, the more I seemed to push him away. By the time I turned fourteen, we were strangers to each other.

It wasn’t until my eighteenth birthday that Dad seemed to emerge—if only momentarily—from his dark stupor. When I got home from school he was there waiting at the bus stop—something he hadn’t done since I was in elementary school—leaning against his dark green pickup truck. He wasn’t smiling, but I could tell he’d made an effort to clean himself up. He’d shaved off his beard, which had accumulated during his many restless hours of working. When I stepped closer to him I could detect faint black stubble in its place. I wondered briefly if I’d ever be able to grow facial hair as fast as him.

“Hey, kid.” He said, trying for a smile. It was forced—and a little funny looking. An old habit he was trying to relearn. He wore a plain white T-shirt and faded blue jeans—the ends resting tattered and muddy on his boots. His unruly black hair was momentarily tamed by a gray baseball cap, some feathery strands curling up under the rim. As sarıyer escort I had for my entire life, I marveled at Dad’s sculpted arms and strong chest, his wide shoulders and chiseled face. I felt a momentary pang of envy that he could look so good even when he no doubt felt like shit.

“Hey Dad,” I responded, unable to hide my surprise. I glanced at his truck. “What’s going on?”

“Nothing. Well, not nothing. It’s your birthday.”

I blinked. “Oh yeah. It is.” The first of my birthdays that Dad remembered since Mom died.

He seemed to struggle for words. “Well…I thought we could do something. If you want. Just us.”

Who else is there but us? I thought. I wasn’t the most popular kid in the twelfth grade and Dad hadn’t exactly acquired any friends after Mom’s death. Besides, because we lived out in the boonies, we rarely saw anyone—our closest neighbor lived a half-mile away.

I found my voice. “Uh…okay. Sure.” I had a hard time looking into his eyes; they were so different, so dark, and this was the first time in a long time he had gazed at me for more than a moment. His voice even sounded odd; I had grown so used to the occasional “Hey,” or “Bye” or “Please leave me alone”.

Dad seemed to sense my discomfort. He glanced around, his eyes unsure of what to do next. I noticed his arms were crossed over his chest tightly—he was uncomfortable too, perhaps even more than me.

Somewhere, I found courage. “That’s great, Dad,” I said, stepping nearer. “Why don’t we go out to eat? That’s all I want, really. It’s been forever. I don’t mind where we go.” I took off my backpack and stepped into the front passenger seat of his pickup. I loved that truck—dark green, peeling, neglected-looking. It had character. Like Dad.

Dad seemed relieved. He got in beside me and started the truck. I noticed the play of muscles in his arm as he turned the key. “Okay, sport. Let’s go into town and you can pick.”

“Cool.”

Dad drove with the windows down. As the warm May wind streaked through my hair, fanned over my face, I felt as if some heavy armor-like shell was being lifted from my shoulders. Here I was, with Dad in his pickup, just like old times. I stole a glance over at him. He’d taken the baseball cap off so it wouldn’t fly out the window. His untidy hair whipped about his face and ears. He had to shake it from his eyes every so often, and the movement corded the ropes of tendon in his neck. With his strong arm extended, his big hand on the wheel, his skin a light brown in the sun, he looked more god-like than man. I looked away quickly when he caught me watching him.

“What?” he yelled over the wind.

“Nothing,” I shouted back. “I just miss this.” I gestured to the truck, to the open highway.

“Yeah,” he said, his eyes returning to the road. “Me too.”

I didn’t ask him if he missed all the things we used to do together. I didn’t ask him why he’d chosen now to come out of hiding. I didn’t ask him if he knew how often I’d cried myself to sleep, wanting him to pay attention to me, wanting his approval, his smile. I didn’t say anything else. I only shoved my anger aside and breathed. Hoped.

We didn’t talk anymore until we got to the restaurant. I chose a BBQ place. Not because I like BBQ, but because I knew it was Dad’s favorite food. The hostess sat us in the corner, and I was thankful for the seclusion. I could tell Dad was very uneasy; it’d been a while since he’d gone out in public. I resisted the urge to give him a comforting pat on the arm as we walked to the table.

Finally the time came when we’d ordered our food and there was nothing to fill the silence but out-of-date country music playing from somewhere in the depths of the kitchen. I glanced at Dad but he was fiddling with his straw wrapper. I noticed he was twisting it; soon he created a mini-sculpture. I smiled inside, thinking that my Dad could probably make a masterpiece out of anything. Then I looked away, lost in thought.

Dad surprised me by speaking first. “So,” he said softly. “Eighteen. Practically an old man now.”

I looked up. “Yeah.” I smiled. “I don’t feel any different, though.”

“Nah, that won’t happen until you find your first gray hair.”

I smirked, glancing at Dad’s full head of black hair. “What would you know about that?” It seemed ridiculous to me that anyone could get gray hair at age thirty-four.

“Oh, I’ve had my fair share. I just make damn sure to pluck the little shits before anyone else sees them.”

I laughed. He smiled—I gawked as he revealed gleaming white teeth. It’d been a while since I’d seen them all at once like that. I knew better than to hope he’d share the laugh, though.

“You have a girlfriend yet?”

I looked away, embarrassed by the directness of his question. “Dad, I’m not the most attractive senior of my class. I turn it all my homework. And I’m not on the swim team. No looks, no muscles, no life. What do you think?”

“What are you talking about? I thought the ladies sefaköy escort love bookworms.”

I glanced up at him, surprised at my luck. Dad joking with me? Now? I forgot to be annoyed. “No they don’t!” I responded, a little red in the face. “They all think I go home and chart the movement of the constellations or something.”

“There’s nothing wrong with good grades. I think they’re jealous.”

“What’s there to be jealous of?”

“You’ll understand one day, I guess.”

A moment passed in which neither of us spoke; Dad went back to his straw-wrapper-sculpture.

I needed to start the conversation back up. I needed to keep him talking, so I wouldn’t lose him. I couldn’t let him close back up. But then the food arrived, and we spent the next twenty minutes with our mouths full. After he paid for the food, Dad didn’t say anything, and we left. I felt sick to my stomach.

The ride home was uncomfortable to say the least. Dad seemed to have fallen into a mood. I’m glad he had the windows down again; if they’d been up, I think I might have suffocated. I stared straight ahead at the road. I guess I should have been more than happy; after all, I’d had an almost-conversation with Dad for the first time in years. And yet, I wasn’t satisfied. What could I do to crack his stony façade? What could I do to reach him again?

When we got home, Dad retired to his workshop without so much as a word.

Well, so much for that. I thought. I went up to my room and beat the shit out of my pillow. I started to throw stuff, but stopped for fear that Dad would hear. So finally, I curled up in the middle of the floor and cried. Hot, frustrated tears. Then I went to bed and cried myself to sleep. Same old story.

Next day, Saturday, I woke up feeling sick. I got up to discover Dad had gone out; he’d left a note for me on the kitchen counter.

Jake — out getting supplies.

I crumpled the note into a ball and smashed it with my foot. I spent the day doing nothing. Dad didn’t believe in TV. I didn’t feel like reading. So I sat around, pilfered the fridge, existed. When it got dark, Dad hadn’t returned, so I went back to bed, feeling a dark mood consume me like a heavy blanket. I couldn’t hold it back any longer—I hated him. For doing this to me. For doing this to himself. How had we become so foreign to each other? And then I hated myself. Maybe if I’d tried harder, maybe if I hadn’t given up, maybe if I hadn’t let him slip away from me. Maybe then I wouldn’t be alone. Maybe then I’d be happy.

I didn’t hear the violin that night—I heard a voice.

“Jake,” he whispered.

I thought I was dreaming the sound. But then I realized I’d actually heard it. I think I had a heart attack. “Dad?” I scrambled into a sitting position as my eyes adjusted to the dark. Dad was crouched before my bed, his fists clenched and his eyes uneasy. He looked like he hadn’t slept at all.

“Yeah, it’s me. Sorry I startled you.”

“No—it’s fine. What’s wrong?”

“Nothing. Nothing’s wrong.”

When he didn’t say more, I glanced around, as though to affirm his statement. Just my room. Dark and cold. And Dad. His hair was messy—more so than usual. Had he just come in? Had he just gotten home? “Uh…what’s up?” I asked. I might have been asking about the weather.

“Nothing, I just—” He looked at me, long and hard. I could see the tension in his face even in the dark. “Happy Birthday, Jake. I didn’t say it yesterday. I should have. I should have woken you up this morning to say it. But I didn’t. And I don’t know why.”

I didn’t know what to say. I couldn’t even move. If this was an apology from Dad, it might as well have been a foreign language.

And then he was crying. Weeping. I watched as my father cradled his face in his hands, as he shook. And then my own hands reached out, touched his shoulders, and next thing I knew I was holding onto him and crying too.

“I miss her son, I miss her so much.”

“Yeah, I know, Dad.” I breathed in. He smelled of pine and oak. Of sweat and hard work. Of the woods. Dad. And here I was, helping him. Finally. Finally he allowed me to help him.

When he’d run out of tears, I scooted over in my bed so he could lay down his tired head.

I awoke to the sound of heavy breathing. Not mine—no, my heart had long stalled in my chest. I knew right away that the warm cage around me was Dad’s thick arms, and the hot breeze on my cheek was his breath. Once again his scent enveloped me: campfire, cologne, man. I opened my eyes and froze. Dad’s face was inches from mine on the pillow, his dark brows furrowed even in sleep. If he’d opened his eyes, he’d be looking straight into mine. I relaxed a little, and took a moment to wonder at Dad’s face. I loved the way his lips formed a permanent frown, except of course when a smile exploded through. I loved his long, dark lashes, his high cheekbones, and the strong curve of his jaw and chin. His beard stubble had grown significantly in just the last few days; the silivri escort shadow gave him a belligerent, rebellious look. I’d always thought Dad was good-looking, but now, I thought he was beautiful. A dark, quiet beauty.

I suddenly became very aware of the position I was laying in. I could feel Dad’s long body against my side, the heat of his skin scalding my own. My heart kicked back up—I’d never been this close to Dad, not even when he used to hug me. With a quick glance down, I realized he was wearing nothing but faded blue boxers. I thought back to last night—it’d been to dark to notice his state of undress. Had he come to me from his bedroom?

And then I was looking at his body. I couldn’t stop myself. It’d been forever since he’d been in any state of undress around me, and as I looked, I realized he hadn’t lost any of his young musculature after Mom died. If anything, my fit, healthy Dad had gotten even stronger, even more sculpted. As though his grief had sharpened him into something terrible and animalistic, something lethal and dangerous. And yet, as I glanced back at his face, I saw nothing but peace and gentleness. That’s what I loved about my Dad. He had a beautiful soul.

I was beginning to sweat. Not only because Dad radiated heat like a furnace, but because being so close to him had me gasping for breath and unable to get enough. I then became aware of my own body; I’d forgotten about myself while I was so attuned to him. I moved my leg a bit and realized my penis was rock hard in my boxers. I should have felt ashamed, but I couldn’t. The fire in my gut felt too good, too right. I moved the fingers of my left hand and discovered they were splayed across Dad’s chest. I looked down and watched my fingers run through the dark, curling hairs there. In this position his pecs were bulging, round spheres, and my fingers where caught in the deep crevice between them. His right nipple was a pale pink circle inches from my pinkie finger.

Temptation. Strong, like the fire in my groin. I could barely breathe. Maybe it was my want for affection from my father, my need for it. Maybe it was because I loved him so damn much. Maybe it was because I wanted to help him, to heal him. But for whatever reason, I threw caution to the wind and followed my instinct.

I slowly and carefully disengaged my left arm from beneath his right, checking his face as I did so. He slept on, breathed deep. Without moving my head, I looked down and watched my hand touch his firm stomach. Long, rippling abs, obscured by a dusting of black fur that disappeared into the seam of his boxers. And then I was looking at the thin material, at the way it cradled his manhood. Dad was big. I’d known that already; when I was little he would let me take showers with him. But it’d been years since I’d seen even this simple outline of his penis. Even in a softened state, his shaft stretched his boxers heavily. I could see the imprint of his cockhead, thick and blunt against the blue material.

My own dick was throbbing in my boxers, and I could feel moisture beginning to seep through the cotton. I felt a wave of embarrassment; what if Dad woke up and saw I had a boner? Would he be angry? Would I lose him again, and this time, would he ever come back out? But then I looked back down at his dick and my embarrassment vanished. I wanted to touch it. To hold it. I wanted to feel my father’s power, his essence. I wanted to be that close to him, to know him in that way. I wanted it so much. I needed it.

My hand inched downward. The soft hairs on his abdomen tickled my fingertips as they came to the waistband of his boxers. Carefully, I slipped beneath it. Immediately I felt the dense forest of his pubic hair. I dove my fingers into it gently, watching Dad’s face for any sign that he’d awaken. So warm. I wanted more. I looked back down and saw the shape of my hand getting closer to the bigger shape of his manhood. Finally, finally—my fingers found hot, smooth skin. I took hold of it. Thick and rubbery. I squeezed gently. Man. Pure man.

Watching Dad’s sleeping face, I began to move my hand around. To my surprise, his shaft began to lengthen almost immediately. I could feel the blood pouring in, could feel the skin getting hotter. His cock grew and grew, got hard. So hard. So big. Soon his boxers were close to ripping open. His cockhead pushed against the cotton, bold and blunt and powerful.

I wanted to see it. Needed to see it. Slowly I relinquished my hold and withdrew my hand from his boxers—the air of my room was icy as I exposed my hand once again. Carefully, I took hold of Dad’s waistband and pulled down. Difficult. Tedious. Can’t wake him up. So slow. Inch by inch his boxers came down, revealing skin dusted by black hair. His ass was first to be exposed. Round, firm globes. Powerful—made for fucking. A dominant machine.

And then, finally, I pushed his boxers down to his knees and his cock sprang out. I forgot to breathe. Jutting out from a nest of black hair, his cock was long and thick and pure male sex and power. Veins snaked up the shaft. His testicles—big as eggs—hung low in their sack, resting against the mattress. And his cockhead—a broad, rounded helmet of thick, rubbery meat—was poking me in the stomach. A warm, musky, masculine scent found its way into my nostrils, and I wanted to drown in it.

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