November 29, 2008

It'll grow back.

"I'll be right back," I said, spinning away from the cutting board, dropping the knife in the sink, and trying not to look down as I pinched my left thumb to my middle finger on the same hand. I was working overtime to keep my face serene, host-like, un-alarmed, as I sauntered out of the kitchen.

The moment I passed through the doorway, however, away from the chatter and company, I broke into a sprint, tearing up the stairs, crashing into one of the upstairs bathrooms and dropping to my knees in front of the sink. I threw open the cabinet doors and, using my right arm, swept the contents out onto the floor so I could better look through them.

You see, I was throwing a dinner party. A huge meal, five separate dishes, each highly complex (hello, idiot), and each requiring approximately the same time to prepare. Jim, typically my soux chef and partner, was busy entertaining the company, which included my mother and brother and some of our closest friends, and was thus out of commission to help much.

Oh, and I had just sliced the tip of my finger completely off.

Go ahead, re-read that. I know, it's hard to imagine.

But there I was, in the kitchen, slicing peeled parsnips (which were about to become a delicious addition to a winter root vegetable and apple hash) when I got a bit more than I bargained for. It's amazing how quickly it happened, just slice, slice, slice, sl-ouch! And I looked down and it was gone. No flap, no cut, just a chunk of my finger -- missing.

I knew, of course, that it would bleed, but I caught it with my thumb and applied pressure quickly enough that I hadn't seen any, yet. And I hadn't wanted to make a fuss of myself there in front of the crowd, so in my typical free-spirited control-freak fashion, I determined I'd handle it myself. You know, so as not to cause any alarm.

Anyway, there I was on the bathroom floor. No bandaids, bandages, etc. to be found. Nothing, in fact, remotely medical. I moved on to the next cabinet. More of the same. About seventy bottles of fingernail polish and lotions of every kind, but not a single ouchless strip.

On to the next bathroom I went, dumping a drawer into the sink. What the fuck were we thinking, not having any bandaids? My self-sufficient plan was starting to look hopeless. And my finger was starting to hurt as the adrenaline wore off. So I decided perhaps I could do a little improvising. First, I'd need to see what I was really dealing with. I'd barely seen the wound when I did it, and ever since had been pressing my thumb to it.

I sat back on my heels and removed my thumb.

And then came the blood. More blood than I have ever seen, and I have gotten myself into some pretty good messes. But this, this was bright red, running and running; it was a facuet of blood. In the few seconds I had my thumb off the wound, blood had run down my elbow, onto the ground in pools, all over my hand, on my knees.... it was everywhere.

This is where I started to panic.

I tore back into the first bathroom, desperate for anything i could fashion into a bandage. But before I had much luck, I started shaking and sweating. There was blood everywhere. In the sink, on the floor, across the counter... it wouldn't stop. And the shaking was getting worse.

Shock, I realized. I was going into shock.

Some dinner party.

Resigned to the drama that would have to follow if I called for help, which is what I realized I had to do if I didn't want to pass out (and, I thought, perhaps bleed to death? Can one even bleed to death through their finger? What about someone excessively stupid and clumsy?), I called, panic clear in my voice, for Jim.

He came running upstairs, shouted something to my mom, and moments later she and my brother materialized, he with a fistful of bandages. I dissolved into sobs, no longer able to keep up the facade as I watched blood continue to run from my finger into the sink and felt cold sweat trickling from my neck to my chest, down my back, down my face.

And then, a few fumbling moments later, my finger was wrapped so tight in bandaids it looked three times its size. Johnson and Johnson would have been so proud. There was still crusty blood everywhere, but my mom was busy on cleanup.

"Christ, babe," Jim said, shaking his head, hand on my hair as I sniffled in a heap on the floor. "How many times have I asked you to be careful with your knives? You make me so nervous the way you cut; I can't believe this is the first time this has happened. From now on, I cut. You point, I cut, chop, dice, fillet. No more knives for you."

"Oh, cmon," I said with a weak smile. "I'm just keeping things interesting."

"I'll say," he said. "You scared me there."

"Well you'll live," I struggled to get up, with his help, and head to the bedroom. "Besides, I'm the one missing a digit."

After changing, with Jim's help (let's be honest, he did it all; I was still a bit of a mess from my brush with shock) from my blood and sweat-soaked clothes into pajamas, I came back downstairs, wounded hand held above my heart (you know, to stop the bleeding), tear-streaked and a bit traumatized.

"My god," said my best friend. "Are you alright? I heard you cry, and when I heard that I figured there was something seriously wrong." I nodded, fighting relieved tears. She gestured to me, speaking to her boyfriend. "This one has a pain tolerance like I've never seen. She doesn't cry. Jesus, what, are we eating your finger for dinner?"

I sniffled and smiled, nodding. "Possibly. At least one of us is."

Dinner was finished (the beautiful buerre blanc sauce for the salmon, the hash, the bok choy in sesame oil, the king crab and three asian dipping sauces...) with the help of my mother, who came to the rescue with both hands and the patience to take orders from me as I paraded around the kitchen pointing at dishes.

"Butter there, slowly, whisk it... those need to be turned... oven on broil, just for a minute -- watch that..."

Of course, the meal turned out beatifully, and with the exception of the fact that I was missing a tiny bit of my body, had to eat with my hand in the air and had to stop drinking (didn't want to thin my already reluctant-to-clot blood), it couldn't have gone better.

And nobody found my fingertip, so that's a plus. :)

Mommy to the rescue. And though it was gruesome for the first two days(and you can imagine my hypochondriachal fantasies: staph infection, gangrene, more bleeding, loss of sensation, over-sensitized nerves, etc.), my little owie is much better now, thank you. In fact, looking at it now, I can't believe how horrible it looked that first day. Our bodies are amazing things; it's expected to make a full recovery in 2009.

And I'm expected to improve my knife skills. But you can make a safe bet that won't be the last aspirational meal I'll cook, with an audience, for fun. After all, what's life without a little danger?


John David Robinson said...

Nobody found the fingertip-- are you sure that's a good thing? ;)

Jackie said...

The McDaniel House had a similar incident with a dollhouse and teeny tiny gutters.

I'm glad you're okay. I'm sure you know it, but Jim sounds like the sweetest guy ever. And I think your mom would be on my top ten list of people to have around in an emergency...maybe top five.