Magpie Moments: The Lost Art of Hand-Kissing

Rudy took my right hand gently in both of his and raised it to his lips. His eyes flicked to mine for my reaction. I don’t know what he saw. For him it was an effortless gesture, over before my brain could engage. My whole hand tingled, and I wasn’t sure if he’d kissed the fingers, the back of my hand, or both. I’d never had a man kiss my hand before—not seriously anyway—and I found the sensation both thrilling and repulsive.

Back to Lazarus, Chapter 27

Rudy Nagroski isn’t based on any particular person, but his penchant for hand-kissing does come from an investigator in Florida whose name escapes me now. Let’s just call him The Courtly Cowboy.

Unlike Rudy, the real investigator wasn’t a Florida transplant, or at least not one from up north. He wore cowboy boots and a pale beige Stetson hat over close-cropped gray hair. He wasn’t retired yet, but he could see it sneaking up on the horizon.

Similar to Rudy, I got the impression The Courtly Cowboy had a lot of stories he could tell you, and I wish I’d had the opportunity to have a drink with him. But, as with Rudy, I may not have trusted him with my knees. 😉

I heard a lot about The Courtly Cowboy from one of the investigators in our office, which was a little surprising. Working on death penalty appeals, a big part of our job was to find anything that was missed or should have been done differently at trial. Sometimes—understandably—it wasn’t easy for the trial attorneys and investigators to not take that personally. And on our side, considering how much frustrated appellate teams sometimes juggle, making nice with everyone isn’t always going to be our top priority.

This is my long-winded way of saying, my friend had a man-crush with reservations.

I only had the pleasure of meeting The Courtly Cowboy once. My colleague and I were on the road, working on a case, and met with CC briefly at a restaurant. All I remember of it is dark wooden booths. It was just a quick pick-up/drop-off documents or touching base about a different case I wasn’t involved in. And CC kissed my hand when we were introduced.

Like Sydney, I’d had a couple of men kiss my hand in jest, but this was a whole different animal.

I can’t even begin to imagine the calculations that go into a successful hand-kiss: distance to the hand, placement (on or between fingers) and pressure (of the fingers holding the hand and the lips on the hand)… truly a lost art. I don’t remember much else about that trip, but I will never forget Rudy—I mean, the Courtly Cowboy—kissing my hand.