Friday, February 27, 2015


I was just sort of twiddling my foot in my hands, and I twisted too hard, and some of it came off. Such a strange sensation; as when you pick at a scab and feel it lifting. Not just my toes, but the whole end of the foot: it came off clean at the end of the metatarsals  at the ball of the foot  so that the toes were all still joined together. Not so much blood as you'd think, and the nerves gleamed white.

I knew, of course, that I should put it back on, and maybe go for medical help, but it was such a novelty, and it was so interesting to see my toes from angles I'd never seen, that I kept delaying, turning it this way and that, handling it in much the way, when I'm doing a massage, I handle a client's foot. It soothed, somehow, a longstanding ache of curiosity. I've always had a bit of a yen to disassemble my body, and look at all its parts closely. It was a chance I didn't want to miss. So I'd fit it back on  it went on neatly  but then I'd take it off again to look once more, and examine it from one more angle, and put each toe through its range of motion.

Worry got the better of me eventually. I fit it back on and held it on. As the severed nerve-ends rejoined, it all began to ache, and then to burn. I got a little anxious about infection. And would it really knit properly? It was all getting puffy and red. And it was really hurting now. How bad would it be hurting in an hour?

It occurred to me then, that it was unusual for part of the body to just come off like that. Maybe it happened to lepers  to badly frostbitten climbers  but why would it happen to me? There would have to be some reason. What had I been doing lately, that would account for it? Nothing. Really, nothing: in fact, I was lying peacefully in bed. And the pain was going away already, instead of mounting. It was fading. I could even  I tried cautiously  I could even flex them: that was how fast the tendons had joined back together!

I was relieved that it was all healing up so well, but as the relief grew, so did the conviction that there was something here that really did not entirely add up and make sense. I pulled the covers off my leg. There was a further puzzling thing: when had I lain down and covered up? In fact  in fact  it would actually all make a great deal more sense if I had only been dreaming that the end of my foot had come off. That, really, would account for the whole thing: all the confusions admitted of a single solution.

I looked at my smooth, undamaged foot, in the dim morning light. With a slight sense of intellectual shabbiness  of not rising to the challenge — I decided I'd take the easy answer. I'd call it a dream. I'd deny the reality I had been experiencing. It was too full of contradictions, too disturbing, to be real.

Since when is being disturbing, and presenting contradiction, an argument against something being real? That was pretty feeble. You'd need a better argument than that in court!

I tabled the dispute, in order to go to the bathroom, and brush my teeth. The light of morning, the new air through the window, distracted me, and drew me on into the world of eggs and sausage, the world of morning showers and the planning of lunch. I was hungry, and tired. I would think about it all later.

The sense of defeat lingered, though. It lingers still.


Murr Brewster said...

If it helps, and it won't, lepers' toes don't fall off. They get nibbled off by rats and their proprietors don't feel it happening.

Jayne said...

Ack! (Reading Murrr's comment.)

Dale! A simultaneous gasp and laugh. I thought maybe I was reading a piece of fiction (and I suppose it was, to some degree), and loved it. Willing to suspend all disbelief.

In dreams, well, begin reality. Or, if you're Yeats, responsibility. Either way, not so different from fiction. ;)

rbarenblat said...

This post is wonderful, beautifully written, and disconcerting as hell. :-)

mittens said...

I love the voice in this, the sense of a real reality, and that curiosity about something that would have had most of us reeling--this is the best kind of story, it starts immediately and ends with a slight tug of uncertainty... Bravo.

Dale said...

Thank you dear ones. And welcome, Mittens!

Kristen Burkholder said...

yah. what rbarenblat said.
also i would agree - since when is something that's disturbing a disqualifier for reality?

Dreams that feel real. Reality that's like a dream. never sure where we are anymore. Thank god for those of us who receive and give the labor of our hands. Pretty sure I'm touching you, and you're touching me.

Dale said...

:-) :-) :-)