Disclaimer. This is gross, personal, and more graphic than you’d like.
Some people can’t help but push things to the limit. Lance Armstrong did it when he won his bicycle race thing and sold all those bracelets. Michael Phelps pushed it to the limit when he won all those gold medals AND he was stoned. And as I recall the Wildcat Basketball team had a whole musical number about doing just that in that one High School Disney movie.
And then we have people like Steve-O, who take things dangerously close. Physically painfully (and unnecessarily) so.
My attempts to do this in the inspiring athlete way have since landed me in the Jackass category.
When it comes to physical injury, putting it off in no way classifies one as a bad ass.
But I do it anyway.
I pushed right on through and ignored shattered and dislocated ribs, fractured feet and ankles, torn menisci, kidney failure, car wrecks, cuts that needed stitches, and most recently, and perhaps most revoltingly, toenails that reached a whole new level.
Close friends (the few and the proud – only the closest had the dishonor and privilege of seeing these things) relentlessly made fun of me for how disgusting they were, begged me to seek help.
The problems started a little over a year ago when I started working retail – a short-lived career path. They made me wear footwear; a garment I’d not been required to wear in any lifeguarding capacity. So I donned my little flats, or my little boots, or whatever, and I hated them more deeply than just as unsightly. They were murder on my feet, and before long the nails had a thick yellow quality. They’d been stepped on, abused, and before long I had blood pooling beneath them.
I care not.
One day which I do not remember one of the big nails just fell off, and I was left a 9-toenailed freak. My solution to this problem was to just paint the skin, no one will notice I reasoned. A new, deformed toenail had begun growth in it's stead; from death comes life.
I’d been growing this thick, repulsive nub of a toenail for almost a full year; caked-on nail polish was my self-prescribed solution to the problem of it’s apparently mangled 23rd chromosome. Granted it was disgusting, but at least I was beginning to move back up the ranks to 10-toenailed person.
And then, tragedy struck.
I could feel the magic would not last. Out of nowhere in particular (no event I can pinpoint) it started bleeding. Not a happy toenail. I could feel it commencing to separate from it’s fleshy counterpart. The pain became so intense that I could not even sleep that night. Around the chilly, dew-kissed hour of four in the goddamn morning I decided it was time: action had to be taken. I’d had a full, relatively painless year to take action; but I thought it’d be fun to wait til right now. When it came to this.
A few, calm hours of pain-killer induced sleep welcomed horror upon their end. Doctor time.
One look at that thing and he informed me, without hesitation, of the imperative amputation or removal or whatever.
It was like a scene from Hostel.
I’m sitting on the little table with my feet straight out in front of me and he puts on his latex gloves. He takes what strikes me as an obscenely large needle and starts stabbing it in my toe with reckless abandon. Striking nerves and inducing more pain than he was relieving.
He vanishes for a moment and returns with his tray of utensils, torture instruments, pain implementers. Sharp, shiny metal scissors, gauze, tape, miniature steel ice picks, a surgical, curved wedge.
Before my very eyes he takes his ice pick and starts shoving it vigorously underneath the top of my nail. That doesn’t quite do the trick. He takes his menacing curved talon and starts DIGGING MY NAIL OUT FROM THE CUTICLE.
It’s separating, and bleeding, and clinging to it’s bed by thick, white tendrils that look a lot like I imagine tendons do, which he severs vehemently with his shears. Blood spurts from the openings and drips down the naked toe. What once housed a symmetrical, feminine (ha), painted nail was now a war zone. An open sore, bleeding and distorted, remnants of nail, flesh, and otherwise served as but memories of the casualties. What remains? A bloody, naked, nail-less, sad sad little stump.
Let this be a lesson to you. Don’t procrastinate.