When I got home from work yesterday the newest addition to my pocketknife collection was waiting in my mailbox. Like a kid on Christmas I slid the new knife out of its packaging and flicked it open. “Nice,” I said, feeling the razor sharp edge. “Very nice.” Then I pressed my thumb against the frame to unlock the blade and closed it on my knuckle. Not nice at all.
As I watched my daily baby aspirin thinned blood dripping on the pavement I knew what I had done wrong and why. The knife’s release mechanism was stiff so I applied extra force with my thumb while my other fingers applied pressure to blade’s spine. When the lock snapped open the knife jumped forward and, in knife nerd parlance, “I got bit.” I own similar knives that I can open and close one handed in my sleep, but this time my overconfidence outweighed my good sense. I should have stopped what I was doing the second I encountered resistance and closed the knife with two hands.
Sucking my thumb, I went into my house and washed my wound in the kitchen sink. After a few minutes watching it bleed I realized it wasn’t going to stop. After applying pressure with a paper towel I ended up with a bloody rag and my sink looked like the slop bucket in a abattoir. If I wasn’t so manly I would’ve passed out.
Trudging upstairs, I went to the bathroom and got my first aid kit. After washing the cut with peroxide I examined my thumb. Yep, it was going to need stiches. “Honey,” I called to my wife. “I need some help in here.”
My wife came into the bathroom and her eyes widened in horror. “What the hell happened?” she said.
“I closed my new knife on my thumb.”
“Again?” she screeched. “Another cut?”
I have an embarrassingly large collection of pocket knives. This isn’t the first time I sliced myself nor will it be the last – but I’d never needed stiches before. Grinning, I began singing an old Nine Inch Nails song.
I hurt myself today
To see if I still feel
I focus on the pain
The only thing that’s real….
“Great,” my wife said. “I’m married to a self-mutilator.”
“It’s just a flesh wound.”
“How many knives do you have now?”
I shrugged. This was an argument I wasn’t going to win.
After Annie applied antibiotic ointment and a dressing on my thumb she said, “I’m going to take your knives away for a month.”
“You’ll never find them all,” I countered – triumphantly.
First aid completed I drove to the urgent care center. Luckily for me the place was empty and I got seen right away – two stiches, a splint, bulky bandages and a tetanus shot. The shot hurt more than anything else. “Don’t play with knives” the doctor said when he was finished.
“Okay doc,” I lied.
When I got home my daughter was waiting with her toy doctor kit, her eyes brimming with concern. “Mommy said you hurt yourself,” she said.
“Nothing to worry about, Natalie,” I said. “Just a scratch.” But I let my daughter fuss over me with plastic instruments and swallowed her candy pills like a good daddy.
“There,” Natalie declared. “You’re all better.”
“I hope you’re in my insurer’s network,” I said. “Are you a Tier One provider?”
“Thank you, honey. Daddy feels better.”
After dinner, and over her usual protestations about supernatural creatures hiding in her closet, I put Natalie to bed. Then I grabbed my new knife and went down to my workbench in the basement. Using rubbing alcohol and a rag, I cleaned my blood off the knife, adjusted the blade’s pivot screw and applied oil where it was needed. Using my left hand I carefully opened and closed the knife until I was satisfied it was performing as it should. Then I went upstairs and stowed it with all the others.
At this point the lidocaine had worn off and my thumb started to throb. Opting for bourbon instead of Advil, I sat down on the couch and sipped it as the night’s silence overtook my house. After a few minutes my gaze was inexorably drawn to the box containing Buster’s ashes on the china closet. Ever since he died I went on a bit knife buying tear. As my thumb ached I realized I had using my hobby as a narcotic to avoid thinking about him.
“You are someone else,” I said to the box. “I am still right here.”
Drink finished, I went upstairs and went to bed. Staring at the ceiling I thought about Freud’s assertion that there’s no such thing as an accident. Maybe my old dog “bit” me one last time. Lying in the shadows, Trent Reznor’s broken thoughts tumbled around my head.
The needle tears a hole
The old familiar sting
Try to kill it all away
But I remember everything.
Love is like a knife and, if you get careless, it will cut you to the bone.