CNF: Holding Hands

by Amy Goldmacher


Through the sliver between seats, I can see they are holding hands: she is reading, using her other hand, the one not holding his, holding her Kindle or iPad or whatever device she is reading on, while he only needs the one hand to hold hers while he dozes or sleeps or gazes elsewhere.

I wonder how she turns the pages, because both hands are occupied, one with the reading device and one holding his; I think it’s selfish for him to want to hold her hand while she wants to read, because she has to accommodate him while limiting her ability to lose herself in the book; will she remove her hand from his in order to turn the page, or will she flex and strain a digit so as not to have to take her hand out of his? And then I wonder if he is the one holding her, and it is her need to be held even while she wants to read, and if both hands are full like her heart.


Amy Goldmacher is an anthropologist, a writer, and a book coach. She is the winner of the 2022 AWP Kurt Brown Prize in Creative Nonfiction. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming from The New York Times, Essay Daily, The Gravity of the Thing, Five Minute Lit, and elsewhere. She can be found at amygoldmacher.com and on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


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What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “Holding Hands”?

This piece started in Jeannine Ouelette’s excellent workshop, Writing in the Dark, with an exercise in the tradition of Ross Gay’s The Book of Delights. The assignment was to write a two-paragraph micro essay: the first paragraph is to concretely observe and depict something quirky and delightful, and the second paragraph is to explain why this quirky thing is a delight. I recalled a moment I had glimpsed through a sliver of space between airplane seats, and wondered what if what I was seeing wasn’t filtered through my biases or instincts, but was something else entirely?


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