【明報專訊】Hands are adventurers. Whatever we venture into, our hands volunteer to fathom the danger, figure out possibilities, and complete the tasks. As time goes by, they archive our activities more accurately than the latest biometric technology would permit. If Sherlock Holmes lived in our age, a squeeze on someone's hands would reveal more than a thousand words. Calluses around the bottom of the fingers? The person could be a climber. Numb fingertips? Possibly a guitarist. Irregular cuts everywhere? Potentially a chef. All of the above with some scars and blisters? Probably moms or domestic helpers who shoulder an impossible list of household chores.
The Taiwanese writer Qijun (琦君) captured the plight of mothers beautifully in her essay ''My Mother's Hands''. ''The veins on the back of your hand are so visible, mom,'' her son teased. ''Just like rivers on the map''. Qijun lamented the sneaky transformation of the hands, once soft, white, and feminine. To make heartful dinners for the family year after year, her hands have chosen to toughen up against her will.
Last week, my calves were burning from my recent excessive standing and walking. To appease them, I visited a foot masseur. The knuckle of his middle finger was twice the normal size, purple under the dim lights. As I slopped into the chair, he ran the knuckle along my tendons. It felt like a wooden chisel, sending me screaming in pain.
''Does it hurt you?'' I asked. The ancient wisdom goes: if you slap someone, your palm hurts equally. ''Not anymore. When I first started, everything hurt,'' he shrugged. In Hong Kong and many Southeast Asian countries, masseurs often work close to ten hours a day, six days a week. Public holidays are not guaranteed because many are hired under a freelance contract. Exploiting the same set of muscles day after day, they send firm and comforting squeezes that cleanse the clients' body of fatigue. Half of the masseurs must have developed chronic occupational injuries. I was guilt-ridden, cooking up excuses to cut the session short in my head.
''Don't worry, my dear. You don't have many muscles for me to massage anyway — not like those who train themselves into an iron man at the gym,'' he read my mind. On this rare occasion, I took my unfitness as a compliment.
Mona C. has a strong appetite for stories. Feed her enough.
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