She had scars all over the backs of her hands. He never asked her how she got them. The skin puffed and bulged and shone ghostly white. They were on the backs of her hands, crisscrossed all over them. He suspected she, or somebody else, had made them with a big sharp knife, but he never asked, and she never told. They liked it that way. It was more mysterious. They never pretended to know each other. They imagined they knew each other, for fun. It was a lot more honest than all that talking and probing and presupposition that sometimes goes on between friends. In the end all the talking doesn’t make that much difference. You still only imagine you know each other. The mind plays tricks. You don’t know shit about each other.
They were sitting, side by side, on the bus, reading. His corduroyed leg lightly touched her denimmed leg. His forearm lightly touched her bicep. It felt like a little kiss.
“What the fuck happened to your HANDS?” he thought, looking up from his book and glancing at them askance.
“You'll never know.” she thought.
The scars had their own beauty. They had a story to tell, he was sure. In between the mesh of thick scar tissue were tiny little islands of untouched skin. He didn’t ask. They just sat there reading. Two people on the bus – total strangers – sitting next to each other. It felt real, more real than it would have with some people he’d known for years. The scars had made it real, they had brought him out of his stupor and made him start asking questions. He wondered what the story was. They sat, relaxed, close, touching, leaning, reading. It seemed intimate. It seemed calm.
Outside the sun beat down on the many tribes of London, 9 million jigsaw pieces in one great big pile, and they fit. For that moment, on the bus, reading, they fit, and it was something to do with the scars. Those marks helped them both to understand something important about the nature of agony and how it can heal and make beautiful ugly patterns on your hands.
The bus stopped opposite his favourite café. The one with huge windows opposite the main gates to Finsbury Park. He decided to get off the bus and go for a coffee.
“Goodbye,” he thought.
“See you around,” she thought
After the coffee he walked home across the park.