I have a wonky toenail. It’s the one on my right pinky toe – it’s raised like a tiny little keratin mountain, with a rather sharp peak. When I get pedicures, the women at the salon I visit raise their eyebrows when they see it. They immediately start talking to their coworkers in rapid Korean, and soon the other women are sneaking glances at my feet and not even attempting to hide their amusement. I really wish I knew how to speak Korean. It would be like that scene in Game of Thrones when Daenerys Targaryen (The Mother of Dragons) is in Astapor trying to purchase soldiers for her army – and the asshole she is dealing with insults her repeatedly and horribly, believing that Daenerys can’t understand a thing he is saying. The poor slave girl the asshole is using as an interpreter cleans up the insults best she can in order to protect her boss and facilitate the deal – but she is obviously uncomfortable with the whole thing. Then, once Daenerys has made her deal and has her soldiers (and at this point, they will only obey her and no one else), she orders them to kill all of the asshole s in the city and allows one of her dragons to barbeque the head asshole – but not before letting him know that the language he has been speaking was her first language – so she had understood every vile, disgusting thing he had said about her.
Not that I would barbecue the little Korean ladies at my nail salon – because they aren’t slave brokers or assholes (as far as I know) – and I don’t imagine they are calling me a whore or insinuating that my wonky toenail is the mark of the devil – but you never know. I think they are probably just expressing their confusion about the toenail and wondering how in the hell they are supposed to trim and paint the damn thing – but it would be nice to know for sure. I would love to know Korean without them knowing that I know Korean – just so I could listen into their conversations. I love to eavesdrop – but that is another story.
I wasn’t born with this wonky toenail – when I was a child I had ten perfectly formed toes complete with appropriately shaped and sized toenails. But that changed when I was about 10-years-old. Remember the dream house and how it was up on the bench in the valley where I grew up? No one lived around us and if I wanted to play with someone, I would either have to walk a couple of miles or I could take my bike and navigate the winding dirt road that led to our house. When it connected to the paved road, it was then a fast and easy downhill ride to my friend’s place.
On this particular day, I had been invited to join my friends for a water balloon battle, so I loaded up the basket of my banana seat bicycle with about a dozen water balloons – already filled, tied, and ready to do some serious splatting. Dressed in shorts and sandals and not wearing a bike helmet, I gingerly made my way down the dirt road, which was rutted and filled with various rocks and holes. But, once I got to the paved road, I decided I needed to pick up the pace if I wanted to get to the water war on time – so I made the decision that I would let my bike go as fast as it could go down the hill – without using the brakes. That decision only lasted about 30 seconds, because my bike was FLYING! Scenery was whipping past at an alarming pace and I could barely breathe for the wind in my face. I got scared – and I hit the brakes – HARD.
I should pause for a moment to let you know that next to the paved road was a gravel pit. This is a place where bulldozers and trucks dig out big holes in the ground to get to the gravel – which they sell. They leave behind rocky and sandy hills that were popular with the off-road motor bike crowd. Unfortunately, as they left the gravel pit and drove onto the paved road, they would bring with them a lot of gritty sand. Now, if you’ve ever slammed on the brakes of a bike when you are traveling at high speeds, down a steep hill, covered with gritty sand – then you probably know what happened next. The back end of my bike started fishtailing like crazy – and the next moment, the bike tipped over and I went down, ineffectively trying to block my impact with the road with one hand. My legs were caught in the bike as it flipped and the only thing that kept my head from hitting the pavement and splitting open like a ripe melon was the fact that it landed on my basket – on top of a dozen water balloons. When the carnage was done, I laid in the middle of the road, still tangled in the twisted remains of my bike – my hair soaking wet – bleeding and moaning in pain.
About this time, I heard a roar and a motorcycle appeared over the crest of the nearest gravel pit hill, coming to a stop just a few yards from me. The rider looked down at me and I sighed in relief – I was SAVED! This man could go for help or maybe even load me on his bike and take me home! After studying me for a few moments, the rider turned his bike – and roared back into the gravel pit, where I heard him going up and down the hills and he continued his fun.
I was despondent, but realistic – no one was going to save me – if I wanted my wounds treated, I would need to make my way back home myself. So, I extricated myself from my bike and carefully stood, assessing my injuries. My arm was killing me – I couldn’t move it without severe pain that took my breath away. I had numerous scraps and abrasions from sliding along the asphalt – and my right pinky toe was a bloody, pulpy mess that throbbed with every beat of my heart. I stoically started limping back up the hill on the winding dirt road, holding my arm close to my chest. While I whimpered now and then, I didn’t cry – at least not until I was about 50 yards from my house. Then, when I knew I was within earshot of those within, I let loose with screams and wailing that would do a banshee proud!
The next thing I knew, my father was racing towards me – his face panic stricken. He picked me up in his arms and carried me back to the house, where my mother was waiting anxiously by the kitchen door. Together, they cleaned my wounds and my dad, a radiologist, determined that my toe and wrist were probably broken. A trip to the hospital confirmed this and my arm was encased in plaster. But my toe – my poor little mangled pinky – was only cleaned and bandaged – because nearly the entire toenail had been ripped out.
I healed – but my pinky toe was never the same. The nail attempted to grow back, but was deformed – a teeny tiny monstrosity that resists attempts to prettify it with polish and paint. However, I have discovered that my wonky toenail makes a jaunty cap for Mr. Pinky – so I guess it’s alright.
When you were a child, did you ever almost kill yourself? Any lasting reminders of the incident? Are you as much of a Game of Thrones geek as I am?