Glimpsing My Mortality

It had been an idyllic morning in Boston. Kira and I had awakened to a day dotted with sunlight, and were assembling a breakfast of bagels and lox to go with our peppermint tea. Though the sun was shining and the sky was almost blue, there were clouds traveling overhead. Outside, the street was dirty and gray, the kind of thing you see more toward the end of winter rather than in these early stages. I picked up an apple and began to slice it.

I knew what was going to happen. As I held the new knife on the precarious apex of an apple slice, I saw that my thumb was dangerously below where I was about to cut, but I did it anyway. The knife caught on the apple, and I exerted more pressure, but it wasn’t budging. I pushed a little harder, and it finally sliced through the firm flesh – of the apple first, then of my thumb and thumbnail.

I’ve cut myself before, and with knives far sharper, but this was the deepest cut I’ve ever had, and blood immediately started gushing out. As someone who grew up with regular nosebleeds, I’m also accustomed to a large amount of blood – in sinks, on tables, in tissues and on my hands – but this was bleeding more than a nose or scrape, and I had a brief, or not so brief, moment of panic.

As I wrapped my thumb in a wet paper towel (thank God I’d already gone out and replenished them), I dispatched Kira to the store for band-aids and alcohol, since the only kind we had on hand was gin. As she rushed out, I sat down at the table and held my thumb. The bleeding had not stopped, and I pulled the paper towel tighter around the soreness.

I suddenly felt, for one of the very few times in life, genuinely frightened. Alone, without Andy, in Boston, I wondered what I would have done had Kira not been there. How would I have managed to get to the store while bleeding like that? My mind conjured more extreme ideas of what might happen to me while I was alone. The stark gray scene of a scary future presented itself in the quiet aftermath of the wound. I saw myself standing there, an old man, looking out the window onto a desolate winter day, childless and terrified of the world and my solitude. It was disturbing, and very much unlike me. As someone who treasures his alone time, I was unaccustomed to this fear. I felt very small.

My thumb was throbbing, but the bleeding seemed to be slowing. I noticed the small clots of darker blood in the paper towel. There was a gaping slit in my thumb, when I could see it before the bleeding began again, but Kira soon returned, and I doused the cut with alcohol then bandaged it up. My hand was shaking, and when Kira asked why I couldn’t answer.

Something about the whole morning spooked me, but Kira was a reassuring comfort. Nagging thoughts that the black and blue tip of my thumb would never heal played across my mind, but people have suffered far worse than a knife cut, and I rebounded into my usual frivolity, even as I knew then that I had been changed forever.

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