I have ten toes, like normal. I used to think I had nice-looking feet, as far as guy feet go, but that’s not really the case anymore. Now I have one big toe with one little toenail.
This is the story of how I did this thing to myself.
This summer, I moved into a house, and the house had several trees that badly needed pruning. I found a guy to do this, and he eventually brought in his team of dudes to shape the trees as well as do some other work that I couldn’t do myself. This situation caused some feelings of insecurity for me. I’ve generally tried to do all the house chores myself, but I lacked the tools to trim trees, to say nothing of the know-how.
When the workers got to my house, the head tree-trimming dude pointed out that the cement paver path that runs through my yard would make it difficult to push wheelbarrows in and out of the yard.
“Can they be moved?” he asked.
“Oh, yeah. I’ve moved them myself before.”
He seemed surprise by this. “You moved these yourself?”
“Yeah, I can move them. It’s actually pretty easy.” (This was a lie. It actually isn’t easy.)
“Oh, okay, then. I was going to sic the guys on it, but yeah, it would be helpful if you could get these out of the way before we get started.”
And so I felt better, because here was something I could do, to be helpful and to demonstrate that I had agency and man-strength enough to move these cement squares that the foreman presumed were too heavy. As the workers start hauling in the sharp, lobster claw-looking tools they use to chop branches, I started prying up the pavers, then rolling them end-over-end and out of the way.
Did I mention I wasn’t wearing shoes at the time?
Yeah, you see where this is going.
I rolled the final paver out of the way — not easily, I should admit, because they’re heavy as hell — and when I finally got it where I wanted it, I let it drop. And it fell corner-first onto my right toe.
I didn’t make any noise. I didn’t give any reaction at all, I don’t think. I just picked up that one side of paver and slid my foot out from beneath it and then hobbled inside, leaving a trail of blood behind me. It didn’t gush blood. It wasn’t like getting punched in the nose. But it bled for about an hour — after I washed it and poured rubbing alcohol on it and swaddled it in paper towels. And so there I sat — on my couch, with an ice pack resting on my discolored, leaking toe as I watched Hallmark Channel reruns of Golden Girls and tried very hard to concentrate on anything other than how badly my toe hurt.
There’s irony here. I injured myself because I’d wanted to prove that I was strong enough, and I only ended up sitting on my couch, watching Bea Arthur waltzing around in a weird cape dress as I tried not to cry. (I also am not strong enough to wear a cape dress.)
Subsequently, the toe manifested all manner of colors — from red to yellow to purple to black to clear, when it just stopped existing. It’s coming back, slowly, but now my big toe is more skin than toenail, so it just kind of looks like Melissa Gorga. The good news is that I will eventually have a proper toenail again. I just need to wait, and meanwhile every time I glance down at my bare feet I have this horribly asymmetry to remind me that pride truly does goeth before the fall — of the cement paver, directly onto my toe.
The bad side, of course, is that this probably won’t prevent me from hurting myself, physically or otherwise, in an effort to prove my worth as an able-bodied human.