BY MELANIE LACOMBE
My finger throbbed once with each swing of my arm, with every step that I took. Damn utility knife. Nearly cut the tip off. I reached back to the memory of that poorly lit back room of the church when my dad showed me what a utility knife was. He said it was the most dangerous of his tools. Could really hurt you. I’d been afraid of them ever since. But loved them too. Years later I’d use them to carve memories in my arm. I’d terrify my body by keeping a tangy-tasting blade on my tongue, mouth closed around it, mouthing the corned spine.
The funny thing was I always said I was afraid of what a torturer would get out of me if they started shoving things under my nails like I’d seen on that Christian show. Anything but that. And here I was, one-quarter nail-less on my left index finger, getting the sensation of a toothpick getting shoved under my nail every damn time something touched the tip of my finger. Which was about a thousand times a day. I was getting over my fear.
On top of that there was a patch of skin missing from the front of my left ankle. It looked like a vicious burn. It wasn’t. I did it to myself, accidentally on purpose. I was embarrassed to say, when people asked what happened. It was so raw looking. Had to be a burn. No. I had scratched away my own skin to nothing to stop that getting-worse-the-harder-you-scratch feeling. It still itches. It just also really hurts. It is raw. I’m a mess.
It’s really tiring being in pain all the time. I’m not complaining. I'm merely observing, appreciating and admiring those who have it 99% worse than I do. Chronic pain. This finger hurts, it’s irritating, it’s inconvenient. My stupid ankle is irritating. But it’s fine.
I wonder if my finger will grow back.
She wouldn’t tell me her last name. I was just curious. She was only twenty. Shouldn’t have been there. Less than a year younger than me. Born on October 3rd. Another one. There are a few outstanding ones that aren’t born in October, but most of them are.
I forgot they were still outside when I told the fucking fly to leave me the fuck alone. Ha. It was funny then too, even though I was getting sunburned, and could feel sweat falling off me. Words like that didn’t fall there very often. And it was just a fly. The back of the old swing kept swinging. They didn’t hear. I thought about Mitch Hedberg – “Flies were almost called Lands, because that’s what they are doing most of the time” – or something like that. I laughed to myself. I’d taken my shirt off because it was too damn hot. I like it that hot. Just not having to pretend I’m Amish when there’s no point wearing a shirt if it’s that hot out. That fly liked it too. I looked at my hands: covered in soil. They didn’t look like my hands. I gripped three tools in one and the bucket I’d been throwing weeds into in the other. Almost done. Forgot about my finger for ten minutes till I put down the tools and switched the bucket from my right hand to my left. Index finger can’t seem to remember it’s head’s been cut off and it hurts like hell. Band-aid or no band-aid, it hurt, dirt was in it, and it was throbbing each time my body threw my arm forward to walk back up the hill. It was driving me crazy.
My phone went off again. New text message. I’d lost count. Three or four. I was eager to read them but I made myself wait. Why did I do that? I always did that. I saved them like a present. I thought we were in a fight, but we weren’t. Miscommunication. You asked, “What’s wrong now?” and I didn’t like the word “now” very much. It added an attitude to your question. It’s kind of funny now, thinking about how I analyze everything. I knew my little sister would agree with me though. She’d think the same thing: you have an attitude. I don’t remember what was wrong “before” the “now” anyway. Even when I thought we were in a fight, I was excited about this new text. I don’t know why.
I was really excited to shower and sit down for the first time all day. My job is cake, but that day I worked hard. Went in the pool on a break when I was getting too mad to weed anymore, and frustrated at how one little finger being maimed made everything so difficult. I jumped off the diving board and did that flip I always do; the one that makes that crazy stomach-drop feeling. I do it so well that sometimes I get scared of it, and I can’t remember how to reach the surface because I don’t know where the surface is. I tried doing it twice but it didn’t work. No rush. I was sad I was alone for a second. Before I distracted myself and got out, because I was cold all of a sudden.