When I cut my thumb, from the tip to the crook of the first knuckle, I was at home alone on a Saturday. My wife was coaching a track meet in Uhrichsville. We were headed to Ashland to stay with her parents as soon as she got home and I was trying to empty the dishwasher and pack and comment on some essays I planned to hand back to their writers in class Monday afternoon.
I can’t, for the life of me, remember how it happened.
I can remember scrubbing the blade with a soaped-up wash rag. A few rusted smears had been left on the blade by heat of our dishwasher’s drying cycle.
I can almost remember letting it go, or letting the knife handle slide a bit in my hand. Maybe the knife had fallen and I’d grabbed for it. Maybe, as it almost slid out of my grasp, I reflexively tensed my hand, at which point the blade bit through the skin and into the pulp of my thumb.
You would think the sharp edge would leave a deeper cut, not only on my thumb but in my memory.
Maybe it did just that. I’ve felt no pain in the thumb since the doctor wrapped the wound with steri-strips and splinted the thumb from the palm.
Maybe, when the knife sliced through nerve endings, it cut the connection between feeling and memory.
Maybe, as fellow blogger and story coach Sarah Elkins suggests in her recent post on the importance of being present, I should take this gap in my memory as a sign I’ve been mentally absent, drifting, preoccupied.
I have been saving back these photographs I took while trespassing on that abandoned farmstead last Thursday. I have been saving that story of that two-second gap in my memory, as well. Maybe I was saving them for each other.
You can see what’s left of whatever was inside this old house. You can see all the way through the house to what’s beyond. A tire and the plastic back-end of some children’s toy lie buried beneath a few fall seasons’ leaves at the base of the thin-trunked trees that provide one hell of a wavering contrast to the sharp frames of both windows.
I was haunted by this scene. After adding the Latte filter I was haunted all the more by what became visible within what must have been this house’s living room.
I keep remembering how wary I was to get too close to the house. I remember seeing in through this window and thinking about the others who’d come to this place before me, for different reasons than what had brought me here. I remember wondering how different those reasons really might have been, once you got down to the core of it.
You wander away, for a break, to escape. You may feel that a little perspective will offer you a way to make it through. What are photographers, after all, but seekers of different vantages, more engaging perspectives, better angles of vision? We all want to see things differently. I have been struggling lately to see my life differently — to imagine another path, a wider road, an alternative career, family, stability, a more certain future. I imagine whoever left this place, and whoever has returned to it since, has either been forced or has wanted something else, something other than what they’ve got where they are.
They’ve felt themselves at an edge. Up against one, peering over one. At some edge’s mercy.
I failed to account for the sharp edge that sliced my thumb. I can’t remember how. But I know why. The splint I wear, the wrappings around my thumb and my wrist, remind me that I’ve been thinking so deeply about alternative ways of living that I’ve drifted loose of where I’m right now, what I’m doing right this second, and what I can do.
What I can do.