Magpie Moments: The Lost Art of Hand-Kissing

Mr Flegeby visits Mrs Lammle, art from a Victorian novelRudy 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 is not 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, he certainly 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. Although he wasn’t retired yet, he could see retirement sneaking up on the horizon. Like Rudy, I got the impression he had a lot of stories he could tell you, and I wish I’d had the opportunity to have a drink with him. Although, like Rudy, I may not have trusted him with my knees.

Felt beige cowboy hat on a white backgroundI heard a lot about The Courtly Cowboy from one of the investigators in our office. I wouldn’t quite say he had a man-crush, but it was about as close as you could get with our relative positions. Working on death penalty appeals, it’s your job to find anything that was missed or should have been done differently at trial. Sometimes—understandably—it isn’t easy for the trial attorneys and investigators to not take that personally. Plus, considering how much the frustrated appellate teams are juggling, making nice with everyone isn’t always going to be their first priority. This is my long-winded way of saying, my friend had a man-crush with reservations.

I only met The Courtly Cowboy once. My investigator friend and I were on the road, working on a case, and met with CC briefly at some restaurant with dark wooden booths. I think it was just a quick pick-up/drop-off documents or touching base thing about a different case I wasn’t involved in. When we were introduced and CC kissed my hand, I realized that hand-kissing really is a lost art. 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 certainly do remember the CC kissing my hand.

[As the mind drifts elsewhere] Oh, and that evidence locker thing. Was that on the same trip? That has to go in one of Sydney’s adventures…

[Photos from wikicommons: Cowboy hat by Ealdgyth and Mr Flegeby visits Mrs Lammle by Marcus Stone.]