my finger hurts

September 4, 2007


I cut it opening a can of cat food for my upstairs neighbor and Christian sister Laurie, a deed which was doubly useless – my wife, who was watering plants for another neighbor, could have done it within a few minutes, and Laurie herself would have been home within an hour and could have fed her cats herself. But I was embarrassed at the idea that Laurie would get home and find her cats unfed, and not sure how long my wife would take to water the plants, and stressed in general because it was the night before the big day when Georgia would go to pre-K for the first time. I thought that feeding the cats was one thing I could do and it would be done, and seeking closure of some kind – went out of my way to have an accident. There I was, looking with exasperation at the pale flap of skin hanging from the tip of my ring finger and the blood which it formerly had kept confined to my body spilling out into Laurie's sink next to a hastily dropped can of cat food.

I called my friend from high school, Alex, who is an e.r. surgeon, and somehow managed to get the finger bandaged (always a stunt when it's your primary hand that's injured), motivated powerfully by the thought of not subjecting Georgia (not twice, anyway) to the sight of a blood-spattered sink. Then I went to visit my upstairs neighbor, who is a doctor and has put in his share of e.r. time – somewhat sheepishly, because of course I have turned to this kind and gentle man a number of times – when Georgia got her hand caught in the elevator door, for example – and I feel bad for him because as a doctor he really doesn't have the option to say, “Leave me alone, I'm off duty,” and so I have this power over him which I exercise with some reluctance.

I'm thankful Marlene nudged me to see him, though, because he took a look at the cut, recommended I get stitches, explained why it was important to do it that night, and recommended where I should go to get it done. This was very important because yesterday the Carribbean Day parade passed through my neighborhood and all the hospitals in the area, my neighbor assured me, were expecting a very busy night in their emergency rooms. Ultimately, I took the subway into Manhattan to visit the Beth Israel e.r. and while my wait was long enough to read the better part of a Greg Bear sf novel, Psychlone (which I'd been holding on to for just such an occasion!), I'm sure it would have been a nightmare trying to get stitched up at a local hospital. And my first-year resident who stitched me up was very personable, and tolerated my yakkity-yak about religion and other topics, and even engaged me with a few comments.

I'm slowly, slowly starting to think that maybe my disinclination to witness (in simple forms, such as saying, “You know, God is really there…” or asking, “What do you believe?”) is something I should get over. A separate issue.

It's remarkable how much one finger can derail your entire body when it hurts. And oooh boy, does it hurt. I don't blame it – it was a nasty cut, and then the suturing was quite a violent process.

That said, it's been a pretty good day. Marlene nudged me to ask Laurie for help, another great suggestion, because it turned out Laurie was able to take Elijah to his day care center for his first ever day of Little Mushrooms. So a huge logistical problem – how to carry and push and cart around Elijah (with my better hand complaining throughout) while doing first-day-of-school things with Georgia – just disappeared, and Elijah had a great time of course. Georgia had been placed with the teacher we preferred – Miss J, whom we had met last spring – in fact, we spent the better part of two days in her classroom. I feel completely comfortable with Georgia being in her care, as much as I'm reluctant to really absorb the fact that almost half of the waking hours I used to spend with Georgia is about to disappear into the darkness of the NYC Department of Education. My sympathy with homeschoolers is peaking right now. Anyway, the first day of my kid's school was kind of fun in the way the first day of school was fun when I was a kid. There's a kind of informal reunion where you see all these parents who look familiar because you've been seeing them around the neighborhood for nearly four years, and some of them you've gotten to know, and you might like them, or even have a modest crush on them, and it's like the beginning of a whole new collective life where you will all be parents of classmates and have this shared set of concerns and responsibilities.

The only thing now is what I really want to do now is clean the kitchen but I really want to keep my hand dry. This is also a problem because what I like to do as soon as possible after wiping my kid's ass is wash my hands thoroughly in hot water – dunno, just a quirk I have.

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