What do you do with your hands when you are waiting with her in the shop, standing a respectful distance behind her while she is rummaging through whatever it is that she is looking for? What do you do with your hands so as not too look disinterested in what she is after? They are just there, doing nothing, useless lumps on the ends of your arms, just hanging by your sides.
You lean against one of the shelves, one of the shop units with your back comfortably against it. You lean back as there isn’t a chair nearby and your mind starts to drift, drift away thinking about football or what is for lunch or something else. You bring yourself back to reality with a slight shake of the head and try to focus on what she is saying, something about which one should she choose, about which would go best but how would you know? What can you do with your hands? You can try putting one on top of the rack that you were leaning on a few seconds ago, that will look less nonchalant, more interested and your fingers can play with the coat hangers that are arranged untidily along the rail. Your fingers can straighten them, make them neatly ordered and it will look like you are taking an interest, focussed on something, focussed on the things that she is looking for.
She moves on a couple of metres to fresh grazing and you follow on behind but what do you do with your hands? You’ve done the leaning bit and so you push them into your trouser pockets. There’s bound to be something interesting down there, some coins you can jiggle between your fingers and count without having to look at them and there is your phone, your mobile phone. Someone will have sent you a text or an email or a tweet or something, anything. You could even check the scores but that would just be too rude and obvious and anyway the pockets of your new trousers, the brown ones that you bought last week because you thought they made you look good are starting to cut the circulation off from your hands. It’s not that the trousers are too tight, they certainly fitted in the changing room, it’s just they are a different style to what you are used to and the pockets are a little tight.
You pull out your hands and try putting them in your jacket pockets but your hands can’t find them, they just flail down the sides of your zippy a couple of times, the zippy without pockets that you put on this morning and have forgotten that you were wearing. Remember, it goes with your new trousers.
So now what do you do with your hands? You can put them together in front of you. Are you praying that she’ll soon be finished, that you’ll soon move one to somewhere a little more interesting? You unclasp your hands and join them again but this time behind you, like an officer examining the troops, feigning interest, you even rock back on your heals, stand at ease. You start to twiddle your thumbs, right over left, right over left, why can’t you do left over right? It just doesn’t come naturally but at least this way you can look on at her attentively while still occupying your hands. Your thumbs are aching and your fingers are numb and so you go back to hanging your hands by your side, like dumb bells, useless lumps that you never know what to do with.
She’s found something she wants. Look sharp, she’s turning towards you. It’s time to look like you have been listening all this time. She holds out her bag and she speaks ‘hold this a minute love will you?’ and at last you have something to do with your hands.