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There’s a slit that’s opened up on one of my fingers. Don’t misunderstand me: this isn’t a cut. My skin, worn thin by oil, and abraded by filing and sanding and scrubbing, has simply opened up. It’s not been able to hold itself together any longer, and now the wound pulses painfully when I hold a spanner or get soap in there.

My fingerprints are engraved with oil, whorls crossed by sharp scratches and skin tears. My nails haven’t been really clean for months. Those black lines mark where my fingers end and my self care has fallen away.

What the fuck’s wrong with me? Why can’t I just put some gloves on, save that skin from contact dermatitis, from being sliced open by nothing less than total fucking disregard? I know exactly why, of course. Because my hands track perfectly with how I really am. Say “Hey, how are you?” and look to my palms to reply.

Turns out, I’m not really ok.

I’m tired and worked and heartbroken. I’m sad and I’m lonely. They’re full of regrets, those hands, they’re scared and want to scram.

But I look at my palms, and there’s more there than sadness too. I see my mountain bike calluses, rubbed in from decades of pulling up on my handlebars, I see the patterns visible from the oil, and I feel happy too. There’s this part of me that smiles inside to see those hands and know the work I’m doing, feel that pride to be making things and fixing things. Those fucked up hands are capable now; they’re strong and learned. My hands tell my whole story, my whole fucken life right there, scarred, burnt in, rubbed out, and painted with grime.

Those are my hands.

Pass me the moisturiser, therapist.