Last night I dreamed the top joint of my left index finger was cut off. The details were fuzzy—but I understood that the amputation was unintentional. I found my finger standing upright on the kitchen table. Unperturbed, I sealed the finger in saran wrap and placed it in the refrigerator next to baby’s breast milk. I secured the strange bloodless stump on my hand with a rubber band from the kitchen junk drawer.

Indistinct and unconnected, disturbing events unfolded. A week passed. I managed to somehow sever the remainder of my finger.

After blithely sweeping through the week, alarm flooded my system.  Dialing my doctor, I removed the first segment from of the refrigerator to examine it. Rosy and plump, its freshness surprised me. I connected the two segments on the counter top as I waited for my doctor to answer my call.

My previous unnatural calm returned as I explained my situation, questioning him in particular about being able to re-attach the finger that had spent a week in the cooler.

Brusquely, he advised me to chuck my finger parts. Although I could re-attach both segments, the surgery would damage my lungs. I remember mulling over his advice. I concluded my lungs were more vital than my vanity.

Yet, as I examined my left hand (which had healed), I pictured the people I knew with missing fingers and shuddered. Sinister unbalanced people lacked digits. People like my deranged cousin who blew off two fingers playing with gunpowder. People like my leering science teacher who ogled my young form while fondling his stub. On the bright side, I reflected, cartoon characters often sported four fingers, and no one seemed to notice, so perhaps no one would notice my missing index finger either.

The next several minutes of my dream spun illogically.  Cartoon characters came and went while my fingers aesthetically relocated themselves on my hand. I considered the value of an intact finger versus an amputated one. Do I choose guaranteed health and disfigurement or a lovely hand and lung trouble? Just as I decided to forgo the surgery, I woke up.

Am I truly so vain?

 

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