“Dude! What happened to your fingers? They’re all, like, puffy and stuff.”

I watch Tuck look at his fingers, quickly evaluating himself, his hands and how they compare, and how to answer the question.

I remember when I was six, after I got my first haircut, when a punk on the playground asked me if I was a boy or a girl. And in that single moment, the question entered my mind that my gender might not be obvious, that I might not be feminine enough to signify my identity, and that I could never, ever again get a short haircut in my life. Hair must be the deal breaker; it must define the girl, I learned.

In the moment with Tucker, I see him fold his fingers into fists, putting them away if they’re going to be a topic of discussion. And I realize this is the moment when the question will enter his mind, whether his hands are abnormal, his fingers are too big, if perhaps he is an odd misfit who must keep his fingers hidden and secret.

Not on my watch, kiddo.

“He has his dad’s hands. Those fingers are big and strong, like his dad,” I say. And I watch Tucker unfold his fingers and look at them again.

“Yeah. I have my dad’s hands. He died. I have his hands.”

Anytime I needed help fastening a clasp on my necklace, he would say, “I’m not sure I can help you very much – remember I have fat fingers.”

When he needed to open something that required precision, he would say, “Bring me those fingernails. I have fat fingers.”

He would input a cell phone number, one digit off. And he would say, “Ah. I fat fingered it.”

His hands were thick and strong. Firm and gentle.

Be proud, Tuck. His hands are yours.

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