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  • Men in New York don't hold hands. They're direct and cut to the chase. I only saw "Sex and the City" a couple of times, but can't imagine Carrie Bradshaw and her girlfriends holding hands with anyone. Even if they did, they wouldn't fall for that romantic schlock for long.

    But somehow my intense, four-month long relationship with T. began and ended with our holding hands.

    Well into my second beer and fully absorbed in conversation with him at a dive bar on Vanderbilt following a farewell picnic I'd organized for a mutual friend earlier that Saturday, I went in for my first kiss. Seconds before, his hand had grazed mine on the ottoman we found ourselves sharing, and that was just the pull I needed to move in closer.

    From that night on we held hands. We held hands every single day we spent together, and we were together nearly every day like a couple madly in love.

    In all my years of dating I had never known handholding. My only real reference for it was the movies, i.e., as something hopelessly romantic and therefore Hollywood fake. Or else something I'd seen with certain old couples—some sweet gesture, symbol of an enduring affection.

    But when T. took my hand in his it felt real, and our relationship couldn't be characterized as other than intimate and thoroughly romantic. T.'s hands were pianist's hands—broad, secure, always warm and inviting.

    I let T. hold my hand over and over again. He initiated it and seemed to want it. And I have to say it felt so right. When he wrapped his hand around mine I felt secure, I felt I could trust him, I felt confident that I could hold his hand just as supportively and lovingly. For once in a very long time, I wasn't afraid. I let go and didn't hold back my feelings. I began loving fiercely with all my heart.

    On one of our last nights out, on our way back from a nice walk to the park, where we'd done some yoga up at the monument on the hill and laughed a lot, something that'd become our playful little ritual after a homecooked meal at my place, T. grabbed my hand after we'd stepped off a curb. Something had already slipped away between us, no longer felt quite right, came off as forced. I mumbled, “Ohhh, cold hands, warm heart!” To which he replied, “Why is it women's hands are always so cold??” At the time I didn't think much of it, but his use of the plural form had struck the wrong chord for me, the woman who'd never really held hands before.

    There was a mixtape he made for me early on in our knowing each other. Naturally, after he'd left abruptly, in the most confusing of ways and at seemingly the worst of times, I listened to it over and over again: was it ever really meant for me, or was it just a projection, your generic curated collection of pop songs filled with longing and desire, songs standing in for love, gestures disconnected from source, or gestures all by themselves never referring to reality--the rareness of two souls ever truly meeting and connecting? I will never know.
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