Sunday, February 13, 2005

thumb story

OK here's what happened with my thumb.

I left Pittsburgh in 2001 and moved out to Santa Cruz, CA-- a little beach town just outside San Francisco. I landed there with a backpack,my guitar, and like $600. I miraculously found a room for $500 that required no deposit and with the remaining $ I bought a mattress and a bicycle. The bike was a yard sale prize, a sparkly-blue one-speed cruiser with "Malibu Hopper" spelled out in candy-colored letters on the side. I got a job telemarketing out of the classifieds and I was in business.

I used to ride my bike everywhere. Work and back was like an hour. In the rainy season sand and brine would blow up form the ocean in the pouring rain and run down the crack of my ass. I would ride drunk, barrelling down huge hills at high speeds after a whole fifth of bourbon. I would ride coked out and on pills. I became one of those prick bike riders who would cut off fast-moving cars and come within an inch of death, then glare at the driver like *they* were the asshole. In two years nothing worse happened than a skinned knee.

One night I was on my way to a friend's house-- completely sober, cruising down a deserted road I used every day. I remember a second there when I felt myself wobble, and I had a long lucid moment of thinking to myself: "I'm about to eat shit." Then I did. The bike flopped over and I flew forward, and my entire weight and momentum landed on my left hand. I staggered to my feet. There was a peculiar searing pain in my left thumb, and a creepy weird kind of exposed feeling, like it was dipped in very cold water. I brought my hand up to look but at that exact moment my heart beat and arterial blood squirted up into my eye. When it cleared my thumb looked like a peeled banana-- skin, muscle and nail stripped back and hanging by a thread from a cracked spire of white bone.

I screamed like the little girl I am. "HELP! HELP!... JESUS GOD SOMEBODY HELP ME!" I waved down the first car I saw, a single mother and boy about 10. There was an ice chest nearby at a closed convenience store and the mom filled the little boy's beanie hat with ice; I stuck my mangled thumb-thing in there. The mother held me lovingly as I sobbed like a small effeminate child. Eventually cops and firemen showed up and an ambulance came. In the back the medics jacked me up on morphine and I assumed my narced-out chatty persona, laughing it up with the crew. There was a problem, though-- a freak highway pileup had slammed the only local emergency room so I'd have to go to another hospital an hour away.

When I got to the backup hospital it, too had experienced a freak pileup, so I ended up spacing out in a little cubbyroom for four hours, staring at my grotesquely mangled flesh while the drugs wore off. I wondered if allowing a severed digit to remain detached for so long was a good idea medically. Eventually a matronly woman came in and sewed me up and my thumb looked quasi-normal again: except for the twists and turns of the various fractures it was normal structurally, only about three times as big and blue and green.

For a while my hand was a useless Chernobyl-baby claw, then it slowly healed and gained utility. Nowadays, it's like I said: fat, numb and crooked, and the nail grew back kind of funny. If you feel along the bone the various joints aren't oriented quite right and once in a while it hurts when i have to open a car door or something. But other than that, it's cool.

And that's pretty much it.


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