Let me tell you about my hands. They’re a bit misshapen in places, a bit scarred in others. The nails are a little too long, a little too raggy, and pretty dirty. They’re not as dirty as my daughter’s nails, but she’s four, and I’m almost ten times older than that. I have a cut on the back of one of my fingers and another just below my palm. I have no idea where either of them came from. That happens a lot.
However, the big issue of note is the little scar between my thumb and forefinger on my left hand. It’s new; the skin around it is still thin and red. From past experience that will change. I have a lot of scars on my hands. There is a beautiful snake-looking scar on my right thumb, which healed over a decade ago: It’s my go to scar, when I feel the need to look at one. You either know or you don’t.
I acquired the snake in October 2001 when I was washing a pint glass in a sink of dirty grey water. I had just moved in to my second student flat, and I was washing dishes. The glass smashed to pieces in my hands and sliced my thumb cleanly. Luckily I lived opposite the local hospital. Unluckily for all of my subsequent housemates I would not be washing glasses ever again. Or washing many dishes.
The flesh on the top of my fingers is fairly thin, but only on the top joints, just below the nails. Quite a few years ago I managed to crush the flesh on my fingers and they’ve never really built back up to the same extent as the rest of my fingers. I had been riding on a supermarket trolley, in a car park, when the trolley slipped, rotated and I fell. My body weight crashed down on the handles, with my fingers underneath. If you winced, you have the right mental image going through your head.
It’s not that I have a habit of injuring myself – my mother-in-law has a history of injuring herself, and shouldn’t be allowed near a hedge trimmer. Or her own car door. It’s not that; it’s the fact that there are times when I am just a big ball of stupid. Accidents happen, and accidents are caused by idiocy.
The scar between my thumb and forefinger came about when I was opening a Christmas present for my daughter on Christmas morning. Children’s toys are wiley things, always on the verge of escape. They need to be tied in tight to whatever packaging which comes near them, preferably with as many cable ties as possible. Four in the case of the laptop my father-in-law bought my daughter.
I started by sawing through one, got so far, and then put the knife underneath and released the tie. I did this three times, and it went successfully. Then I got to the fourth tie. The other three had been released when I had switched from above to below, so why not just cut out the middle man, and start straight from below. Yes, it did seem to take longer to get through. It just needs more pressure.
Eventually the final cable tie was cut. I was cutting with my right hand, with a very sharp knife. I was concentrating very hard on not getting it anywhere near my daughter, waiting patiently for her new toy. As the tie cut on the right, the knife continued moving left. There was a lot of force behind it, as shown by the fact that it embedded deeply in to my left hand. Then there was a lot of screaming.
Major laceration; Christmas morning. I pinched hard on the wound as I stood at the sink. I hadn’t dripped blood over anything, which was a success. On the other hand, I did not want to go to hospital on Christmas day. I was looking forward to cooking dinner, plus I had a cool guitar to play with. I was praying that the bleeding would stop. The wound gaped open like an empty eye socket.
Thankfully the wound healed; thankfully there was no sepsis; thankfully I still get to play with my beautiful guitar. I look down at my new scar and I see the knife swish through the air, from cut cable tie in to hand, and my mind screams. It happens several times a day. All I needed to do was cut from the top, like I did with the others; why did I not do that? What the fuck was I fucking thinking?
I used to work in a restaurant, in the kitchen. I cooked, I cleaned, I set fire to things, I shouted at my co-workers: it was good. One night, I was sliding a crumb tray from one end of the oven when I found out that it was hotter than I had expected. I had managed to burn each of the fingertips of my right hand. I may well have shouted at a number of my colleagues in the moments which followed.
Another burn incident which happened in that very same restaurant kitchen involved soup. We did not cook the soup ourselves; we bought it in, packaged in plastic pouches. We would heat the pouch up, in the bowl, in a microwave. Then the pouch is cut open and the soup poured in to the now hot bowl. Heat it up too much and it will pop; that’s just the cost of doing business. Start again.
Heat it up too much, but not enough to make it pop and you will have a pressure vessel full of rather hot steam. Open that up with too little care, and the steam will be released directly on to your skin. A little known fact about human skin is that if you hit it with enough heat it can melt. And so, one evening, after someone had ordered soup, I melted the skin on my fingers, shook my hand in pain, and watched my now liquid skin fly off my fingers and splat on the restaurant kitchen floor. Nice.
I suppose what I am trying to say with all of this is that my idiocy knows no bounds. It is the title of the piece, after all. Once, cutting a pack of cling film open with a ten inch knife I managed to embed the knife in to my thumb. I can still see the scar. I am a complete moron, who should never again be allowed access to knives, ovens or soup. Thankfully I now have very good oven gloves. Now. Useful.
I’m sure I’ll acquire more scars from more idiotic behaviour; each one tells a story, albeit a rather stressful and horrifying one. On one hand it hurts; on the other, at least I have no desire to go out and get a tattoo: I have enough permanent marks on my skin without letting other people do it.