Are My Hands Exotic?
By Kristine De Guzman
I was six or eight years old
I met a white older couple who was talking stories with my grandparents.
The husband saw me and said “Aloha” with a harmless hand wave and grin.
I did not feel safe right away
But I didn’t know why, at first.
He kneeled and extend his hand out to me.
“Hello there.” He says, trying to give me a handshake.
I quickly and quietly shook my head no.
But he still was waiting for me to shake his hand
Like I was a dog.
I ran away and hid behind my grandparent’s legs.
“Sorry, she’s shy.” They apologize.
Don’t excuse me and apologize to them! I don’t feel safe!
The elderly couple laughed and said it was ok.
The husband kneels again and tries to handshake with me again.
This time, everyone’s eyes are on me, and not just his.
My grandparents signal me to go shake his hand.
I don’t want to. Please don’t make me do it.
I look up to the wife and she uncomfortably couldn’t look at me when I look at her
But does not speak up for I’m not a full threat to her or her marriage.
My grandma asks me, “Why don’t you hug him?”
I hard shake my head no.
Everyone chuckles, thinking it was plainly innocent and cute
I don’t want to. I want this to stop already. I want this over.
The husband grew impatient and grabs my hand and gives it a shake
My wrist felt like he put cold handcuffs on me, not a warm welcome.
“There we go. Nice to meet you too, cutie!” He smiled,
The wife smiled too but for a glimpse.
I was able to run inside the car where I waited for grandparents to finish talking with them.
I sat in the backseat, quietly waiting with the windows all down
I heard footsteps approaching my side window
It’s the elderly couple again.
The husband approached me right away and extends his hand out to me again
I kept my head down and pretend he’s not there.
The wife stood behind him, saying nothing and boringly waiting for him.
“How about you do it, Honey?” The husband suggested and stepped to the side as the wife walked up to my window
My grandparents were outside the car, watching me with them.
She reached her hand out for a handshake
She had a facial expression like she was trying to pet a stray cat with the caution of getting bitten
I didn’t want to bite her. I wanted them to leave me alone.
I gently played it off like I was giving her a handshake by lightly touching her palm.
I felt her muscle jerk a little then she stepped back.
She tried to play it off like it was nothing but looked really relieved like she passed a scared test.
“Can I have one too?” The husband humorously chuckled.
I wish I could yell no at him, but would they believe or even stop?
My grandparents were distracted by talking to the wife about me.
He put his arm in the car to put his hand in front of me.
I gave in with hope he’d finally leave me alone if I do this.
I touch the inside of his palm and lightly move my hand up and down.
He seized my hand and lightly squeezes my hand
Like marshmallow paws.
“Your hands are very soft. Cute with your exotic Hawaiian ethnicity.”
I took my hand back and put them behind my back.
I’m fed up.
“I’m hungry!” I yelled
My grandparent’s hurries into the car and says goodbye to them as they walk back to their rental car.
We finally arrive home
I walked to down to ocean
And dipped my hands into the clear water
I cried as the ocean washes over my hands with true comfort and gentle safety.
Years later, I’m an adult and by myself in a public place
An elderly white man engages in a conversation with me.
I tell him I’m a local Native Hawaiian and he cuts me off by blurting,
“You’re so exotic!”
My hands ached as they remember that trauma.
I raised my hands as a sign to calm down and back off
He quickly looked shocked as to why I was on defense.
“Am I really exotic for not being white like you? I’m human too.”
He quickly tries to back himself up with a mumble of unintelligent words.
I put my hands down and walked away.