In my freshman year of high school I was made aware of my unnaturally sweaty palms. I’d known this was one of my father’s afflictions since I’d always been painfully aware of how damp his hands were when we’d join together in saying “Our Father” during Sunday Mass, but never had I thought that I could also be affected by the curse. I suppose this was partially the fault of my own willful ignorance and my family’s inability to call me out in the same way I’d call my father out every weekend.
Whatever the reason, in my freshman year, when a girl (to whom I bore no romantic feelings as I understood them) seized her hand from mine faster than she’d grasped it in the first place, I was mortified by the realization that I had, in her words, “disgustingly clammy hands.”
I never associated this phenomena as more than a body’s natural response to external stimuli, much like one sweats when in a sauna, but after that moment I became acutely aware of how effectively my body and mind could betray me. Problematically, the more self-conscious I became of my problem the more evident it would be in my hands. Worse yet would be how quickly it could happen; in one moment I could be holding somebody’s hands and as soon as my brain caught onto this fact, the floodgates would open.
The problem exacerbated itself when I began to lift weights. In cruel mockery of my attempts to increase my physical appeal, I developed blisters in my hand that would sting at the slightest contact with sweat. I could literally feel my hands burn as I would get nervous which would make me more nervous and thus cause more burning ad infinitum.
Lotions, gloves, and other prescribed treatments were only palliatives that granted fleeting moments of reprieve — my hands were impressively subordinate to my nerves. The most I could do was sneak a quick wipe against my pants or close my hands altogether.
As this was a battle of the mind, it was, in hindsight, of little surprise that my cure came in the form of love. By the miracle, grace, or mercy of the powers that be, a beautiful young woman fell in love with me. At first, she didn’t know about my hands (in no small part due to the great lengths I’d gone to prevent her from finding out) and she liked me, which bewildered me but infected me with similar affections toward her.
I tread on thin ice, making as many deliberate movements as I could knowing that the illusion could be shattered at any moment. Throughout the duration of our relationship I could never fully accept that a person, let alone someone like her, could love me in the way that she claimed and even demonstrated at the time. However, I got as close to accepting the love as I ever would the day we left the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
We’d had our fun looking at the art and appreciating it in the best way we could (amidst youthful intermissions in secluded hallways), and our moods were at a high in the city’s summer bliss. It was then, as we were walking past Central Park, that she clasped my hand in hers. The heat and my nerves being what they were, a film of sweat had already developed and I immediately pulled away in embarrassment. To my surprise I found her grip tighten and I looked at her with pleading, confused eyes. She simply smiled and said that she didn’t care.
It’s weird but just like that, after all those years of clenched fists and hiding, I started to not care too.