Hands of a Dutch Man

I develop funny fixations. Not funny ha-ha but funny as in unusual. Let me say, then, that I am a person who develops some unusual fixations. (Nothing, however that would get me in trouble with the law)!

It was Sunday, mid-afternoon, and I had just crossed a small bridge near Anne Frank House in Amsterdam when I noticed a man through the window of a restaurant. Rather, I noticed his hands.

There was no one else that I could see in the restaurant, just the man and a young waitress. All the better to focus on your lovely old hands, my dear.

It was not my intention to stalk this man and his hands. I had actually veered off the sidewalk to more closely examine the stained glass work on the front door of a restaurant… but that was before I caught a glimpse of the man. His hands, when considered together, formed a softly wrinkled topographical map featuring gnarled knuckles and earth brown old age spots. The well-used map of a long full life. These hands emerged from black sweater softness. Cashmere, perhaps. I wondered what the man was doing with those hands. Was he typing on a laptop or holding a book or adding sugar to his coffee? From my vantage point I could not tell. And then there was the question of his identity. How had the man come to this particular restaurant on this particular Sunday? Was he a foreigner like me? He held his hands with confidence and familiarity and I guessed that he was Dutch. I could see (anyone who was paying attention could have seen) that these hands had personality. These were the hands of an interesting man, a man who had adventures.

I wanted to go in and have tea with this man with the interesting hands but then I remembered how the world works, how it frowns and discourages a Canadian woman with unusual fixations from entering a Dutch restaurant and makes her think twice (three times perhaps) about saying, “Hello. I saw your hands through the window and was captivated. Let’s have a cup of tea and talk about our stories.”

So I took a picture of his hands and, as I passed by the restaurant, the entire man came into view. He was both ancient and lovely. Without thinking, I waved. The man smiled with his whole face and then he waved at me with one of his exquisite hands.


  1. I like this story. It reminds me of a poem I wrote once about a woman's hands. Think I like yours better though. I'm glad he smiled.

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