How To Almost Lose A Finger And Your Mind Too

It’s two o’clock in the morning on a Sunday and I am drunk. I am not belligerent. I am not “blacked out” (since I stopped taking Prozac I very rarely blackout).  I am good ole’ fashion D-R-U-N-K. Santa Clause drunk. Happy Auntie Sooze who recently launched her own bedazzled handbag line after her liberating divorce drunk.

American drunk.

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BY OWEN GOULD

I am inside a fabulous country-western gay bar in the thick of Hell’s Kitchen. The bar is called “Flaming Saddles” which I think might be the best/most-creative gay bar name in all of New York. I’m wearing a dress by House Of Harlow 1960 (Nicole Richie’s line. Can you blame me? I’m an early 2000s girl. I worship at the bony altar of Nicole Richie). It’s the color of Seattle wild salmon and has a very low neckline and my boobs are spilling out of the top, like two giant scoops of ice-cream that can not be sustained by their meek cone. Every fifteen minutes or so my wife informs me that my nipple is showing.

“Free the nipple!” I slur like an idiot every time she pulls up my top. I then will proceed to look over at whoever is next to me and ask “why do we even sexualize women’s nipples?” as if I’m a freshman at an annoying liberal arts college fresh off of her first gender studies class.

My wife chuckles because she’s had a few cocktails herself.

I look at the bar. It is now covered with boys with beautiful bodies wearing nothing but tiny white undies and cowboy boots. They are line dancing across the table like the girls from “Coyote Ugly.”

I turn to my friends Luke* and Ryan.* “Do you remember that time one of them accidentally STOMPED on my finger with their cowboy boot?” They nod enthusiastically. They both remember. My hand was a romantic, maudlin-looking purple for a whole week.

I slurp down the remains of my tequila soda. There are six lemons smushed into the glass just like I requested. The wise woman who lives inside of me (I call her Sharon) whispers in my ear. She smells like the old-school Guerlain fragrance Shalimar and Virginia Slim cigarettes and stale coffee. “Zara.” She says in her no-nonsense Queens accent. “Go home, girl. It’s the witching hour. Nothing good happens after 2AM. It’s 2:15AM. Watch it.” She pulls out a piece of gum, pops it into her mouth and starts smacking.

“I know, Sharon.” I flag down the bartender with a freshly manicured hand. I marvel over how long and sexy my nails look. I’ve always had exquisite hands. “One more drink and I’m home darling. Promise.” I wink at her. She rolls her eyes and stomps out of the gay country-western bar, her sensible Coach purse banging against her Mormon hips as she exits the premise. I swear I can hear her flick her yellow bic lighter from inside of this noisy club that’s currently blasting that new Taylor Swift gay anthem.

“SHADE NEVER MADE ANYBODY LESS GAY!” Taylor Swift screams through the speakers as a bunch of drunk southern-bred gay boys lose their minds. They are yee hawing and grinding on each other and dancing like prom queens and singing their queer hearts out and clearly having a reparative experience. I can’t imagine that most country-western bars in the south take kindly to gay boys who squeal to T. Swift whilst clad in ass-less chaps. I am watching years of trauma come undone on the dancefloor. Oh, how I love gay bars!

I suck down my drink pretty quickly and realize I’m speeding down the highway heading toward a dangerous place I like to call Blackout City so I really need to quit while I’m ahead and stay here in sweet, safe Buzzedville, USA. I detest blackouts and already suffer from acute bouts of anxiety — I can’t afford to add a blackout shame spiral into my already too-cluttered mental illness mix. Plus I don’t want to be tempted to do something stupid like take one of the spirit-sucking Adderall pills which often happens when I stay out past 2AM.

“Baby let’s go home pretty please,” I beg my wife, Meghan. Meghan looks sexy and stylish and very New York in black denim and a shiny Member’s Only jacket and pointy black boots. She is clutching her drink between her elegant fingers and her eyes gleam in that way that buzzed people’s eyes gleam. Why does liquor gloss the eyes so? It’s quite pretty, minus the pesky redness that creeps into the corners of drunken eyes.

“Who are you and what have you done with my wife?!” Meghan beams like a corny dad. (It is rare that I am the one who initiates going home). “Come on,” she says strutting toward the door. Her legs are so long she looks like a cross between Bambi and a Russian supermodel.

I do what I do best. I smirk and follow her.

The door is heavy. It’s an iron door that swings both ways (A bisexual door). I stop by the door to take a grounding moment so I can steady myself in my very high platform espadrilles (a trend I am so over. I would rather take a bubble bath with Melania Trump than see another pair of goddamn espadrilles! Gag). My left-hand rests by the hinge of the heavy door, my right hand is pressed against my hip because I’m trying to look hot for my wife and all the gay boys that are littered across ninth avenue looking like sex on feet in their tank tops and jeans shorts and Gucci slides. Someone comes behind me and slams the door shut. My finger is caught in the hinge.

The next thing I know I am screaming. I fly out on to ninth avenue and see blood everywhere. Bright, fire-engine red blood. It looks fake. It looks like the kind of blood you would buy at one of those tacky Halloween shops that pop up all over the tacky sects of fourteenth street during the month of October. I stumble into a phone booth (that reeks of crack and piss and rat shit) and my eyes fall downward toward my hand. The tip of my fingertip is dangling. There is so much blood everywhere I can’t truly see anything but my dangling fingertip. My House Of Harlow dress is covered in blood. My legs are covered in blood. Meghan is covered in blood. Luke runs into a bodega and comes out with a cup of ice. I am numb. No feeling. It reminds me of the time they gave me lidocaine before I got lip injections and I couldn’t feel my lips for three days and kept drooling my wine down the side of my face. Meghan shoves my hand into the plastic cup.  It’s lavender. Since when do bodegas sell plastic lavender cups? How nice that would be for a picnic. I hate those nasty red solo cups the college kids use, don’t you?

The pretty lavender cup is instantly filled to the brim with blood.

The blood is such a beautiful, vibrant red. I wish they had a nail polish this exact tone. I think of Diana Vreeland who once said: “All my life I’ve pursued the perfect red. I can never get painters to mix it for me. It’s exactly as if I’d said, ‘I want Rococo with a spot of Gothic in it and a bit of Buddhist temple’ – they have no idea what I’m talking about. About the best red is to copy the color of a child’s cap in any Renaissance portrait.” I wonder if my blood is the perfect red Diana Vreeland forever coveted but never found. I stay stuck on this thought to distract myself from the super un-chic fact that we’re going to the hospital and I’m deeply terrified of all medical facilities. I always think they’re going to tell me I have six weeks to live or am pregnant (what if I blacked out and had sex with a guy? THIS IS HOW A DEMENTED ANXIOUS BRAIN WORKS PEOPLE) or am morbidly obese (I grew up watching the OC where Mischa Barton’s backbones stuck out of her body like fairy wings. No amount of body-positive Instagram accounts in the world could ever undo the damage media bestowed unto girls who came of age in the early 2000s).

The next thing I know I am in the hospital and everyone is yelling at me. “Don’t look at your finger, you’ll faint!” I don’t look at my finger not because I don’t want to faint (I enjoy the occasional faint, such 1950s movie star drama swag) but rather I would prefer to think about Diana Vreeland and the fantasy of the fashion world back in the 60s and 70s. I want my brain to swirl with thoughts of pretty things (quilted clutches, tortoiseshell sunglasses, couture gowns, supermodels, private jets, houses in Palm Springs) not ugly things like a finger-nail less finger with the tip hanging off and gushing blood, ruining everyone’s outfits. Those stains will never come out and I am wracked with guilt. A lady never stains anyone else’s garments but her own. At least that’s what my mother has always preached.

Luke and Ryan come rushing through the doors of the Emergency Room. They are wide-eyed and gorgeous. Ryan is holding my Chanel bag. He is holding it protectively like it’s a scared child whose mommy is currently hurt! All of that is true. The closest thing I have to a child is a Chanel bag and mommy (me) is indeed hurt. She’s about to lose the tip of her fucking finger.

Wait. What?

“We might have to do a partial amputation.” The doctor, an attractive but nerdy thirty-something says matter-of-factly to my wife. I forget about Diana Vreeland and Chanel and the gorgeous gay boys who have come to my rescue.

“I’M A FUCKING WRITER I CAN’T LOSE THE TIP OF MY FINGER,” I scream. There is a guy in a prison uniform shackled to the bed next to me. I send him a dose of good energy before yelling again at the doctor. “Seriously! I can’t lose my finger! I have to write!” Finally, I know what it feels like to be an injured ballerina, a secret, long-standing fantasy of mine. Not just being a ballerina, but an injured ballerina. A hurt ballerina. A fallen ballerina. How glamorous and tragic and poetic is THAT? And I live for glamour and tragedy and poetry.

“Either way babe you are going to have to take a break from writing,” Meghan says evenly, knowing I’m about to erupt into flames. Writing is all I have in this cruel, cold, world! It’s how I make my money. It’s how I release the demons that plague my tarnished dyke soul. Without writing the demons punish me by cursing me with chronic IBS. I become emotionally and physically constipated without the outlet of writing. Writing is also how I connect to people. Without writing I’m just another empty Jewish girl who lives in midtown west wondering why her life is so meaningless and why she has so few real friends and why her meds aren’t filling the gaping voids, even though she’s upped the dosage like ten times.

“Look, babe! At least you finished your book.” Meghan says brightly. I look at her long Bambi legs and feel resentful. Not only does the bitch have legs up to her ears, but she also has working fingers. I hate her at that moment. But she’s right. I handed the first draft of my manuscript over to my editor on Friday. It’s Saturday night. Well, Sunday morning. I banged out that 95,000-word book in three weeks. Almost killed myself writing it, but loved every second of it in that weird, masochistic, addictive, creative way that just hurts so good. I start laughing like a psychopath.

“Why are you laughing?” Meghan asks.

“It’s just like the final fuck you from the writing gods. You’ll lose your mind, your friends, your social life while writing this book…and your finger too, bitch.”

“Maybe it’s a sign,” Meghan whispers her eyes lighting up like a mystic. I know she’s right but I’m not ready to go there. We’ll save that for when I’m covered in my weighted blanket high on valium or something.

Luke lowers his head and murmurs, “They won’t have to amputate right?” His long eyelashes sweep across the room, cleaning the energy of the room like his lashes are a broom. His lashes are in fact so pretty and so plush looking I want to curl up in them and take a nice long nap. I make a mental note to ask him if he uses Latisse at a more appropriate time.

The emergency room doors swing open. Time stands still. I know who it is before I even see their faces. I can smell their obscure expensive perfume and I can see the vape from the jewel pen billowing beneath the hospital doors.

It’s Violet and Beatrix. The good-time train has arrived. The girls are in town, honey. The bitches are back. Now shit is really going to get fun!

Violet’s curly hair hovers at the top of her head like a beautiful brunette halo. Beatrix is wearing a pretty pale blue dress. Their eyelids hang halfway down the whites of their eyes like they’re perhaps a bit stoned, but they still look so hot every male doctor (and shackled prisoner patient) stares at them like Bella and Gigi Hadid have just waltzed through the doors. Only they are better than Bella and Gigi. These girls have the kind of deep leather-bound soul no celebrity offspring could ever dream of possessing.

The next thing I know all of us, the whole motley crew is packed into a tiny room where I’m about to have my fingertip sewed back on.

“HAVE YOU TAKEN ANY DRUGS TONIGHT? I NEED TO KNOW.” Barks the nurse, her gaze shoots daggers into my face. Ouch. Bitch. 

“Just alcohol,” I say smugly because if this were four years ago I would have likely had to answer a shameful “yes” which would mean they wouldn’t give me pain medication and I would have to suffer through a finger surgery and feel the agony whilst coming down from cocaine. God it’s nice to grow up and not do horrible things like snort coke into your nostrils, isn’t it?

The nurse can tell I’m not lying. I suspect she’s a former party girl and former party girls always know if people are on or off drugs. Our drug judgment is amazing and it never fails. I could tell you what drugs you took three days ago, my party girl instincts are so spot on. If only I could monetize that skill.

“Everyone needs to leave so they don’t faint.” The cute/nerdy doctor orders. His cheeks are flushed because of Violet and Beatrix (or maybe Luke and Ryan who knows? We’re in Manhattan).

“My dad is an oncologist,” Violet says smugly. She saddles up right next to me and fearlessly stares at the finger everyone has been firmly schooled not to look at.

“I’m not scared of blood,” Luke says batting his long lashes.

“I’m not going anywhere,” Ryan says stroking my Chanel child.

“I’m her wife,” Meghan says putting her hands on her hips as if to say “Do you want to get sued for homophobia, dude?” (He clearly does not).

“I made her wedding dress,” Beatrix says, pointing to Meghan. “I should be here too.”

The doctor chuckles and injects me right in the hand with a giant needle full of pain meds.

“I heard about that fuckboy who ghosted you. The nerve!” I roar to Violet right as the needle penetrates the delicate skin of my hand.

“I know. I’m taking a break from dating. Men in New York are the worst.” Violet isn’t wearing makeup and in her little shorts with her little chicken legs swinging up and down from the operating table she’s perched on – she looks about fourteen.

“We are the worst” the doctor agrees as he begins dutifully sewing the tip of my finger back onto the rest of my finger.

“I think my Ambien is kicking in,” says Beatrix. Her pupils are big and she looks like she’s on acid. Watching a finger get sewed on after dosing yourself with Ambien must be trippy. 

“My edibles are just kicking in now too,” Violet says nervously. All of a sudden she’s not the confident doctor’s daughter. She’s high off the marijuana mints I gifted her after my last LA trip. Those bitches are strong. I can tell the heaps of blood and the destroyed finger and the shackled prisoner next to us are starting to give her a bad high.

“Have you read the book ‘Luckiest Girl Alive’“? I ask the group, suddenly feeling very literary. 

“No.” Everyone responds in perfect unison, including the doctor.

“It’s so good. It’s about this girl who gets practically gang-raped in high school by these preppy motherfuckers and now she’s this super successful magazine editor who is about to get married to a preppy motherfucker who strikes freakish parallels to the guys who raped her. ONLY you find out that this columbine school shooting situation — wait, I don’t want to give it away just read it. It’s really good.” The doctor seems intrigued by the book. Suddenly I decide he’s nice and not wearing a wedding ring and I should totally hook him up with Violet and Beatrix. So what if they’re tripping out! Those girls can handle anything.

“So, girls. What’s it like to BE SINGLE in New York.” I ask, emphasizing the word single.

They both go into respective long monologues about how the dating scene in New York is more treacherous than going to TJ Maxx during a sale (not that either of them have likely been to TJ Maxx).  I can’t help myself, I join in. “I am SO GLAD I’m a DYKE,” I yell to no one in particular.

“Gay men can suck too,” Luke says.

“Not as much as straight men,” we all say in perfect unison including the doctor.

I look over at Violet. Her golden skin is taking on a strange green shade. She needs to go home before this high gets really bad and she ends up in the psych ward strapped to a gurney. I look over at Beatrix. Her eyes are slits and I can tell she’s dreaming while she’s awake which is what happens when you stay up on Ambien. I don’t want her to do something bizarre in the hospital. I want my pain meds and with these delinquents around me, no one is going to prescribe me Vicodin.

I tell the girls to leave. Gratitude radiates off of their bodies. It radiates off of my body too. I mean they came to visit me at 3AM after they took their sleeping pills! I could cry I love them so. The energy in the room is positive because of all the gratitude and real friendship and I hope the poor prisoner can feel it because I know how negative prison is. Someone I deeply love has been there for a very long time.

Luke and Ryan stay, clutching my Chanel purse looking fresh like they have just stepped off the ferry at the Pines. A nurse comes waltzing in. “We’re going to give you Percocet.” She purrs. She looks a little high herself. I mean it is 5AM in the ER in Hell’s Kitchen. Anything to take the edge off the sadness of the sad, hysterical, disenfranchised people lurking about.

“I love a Percocet moment!” Ryan practically sing-songs. I shoot him a bitchy look. Do not fuck this up for me, boys. My inner junkie is protective of her pills (and I don’t even like painkillers).

I nod like a nun who has just been offered a used bible to recite to a room full of naughty children. Business as usual.

The doctor leaves the room to grab some gauze and a splint for my finger and the bill.

“Wait!” Luke says, his tone very serious. I fear he is going to tell me my finger has been sewn on backward (I still haven’t looked at it).

“Can we process the Jeffery Epstein saga?” We all sigh. The sex-offender/disgraced financier has just been found dead in his jail cell this very morning. He had all the tea on Trump and was apparently going to spill it. There is so much to unpack here.

“Well, I don’t think it was suicide, for one.” I say. I am now fully sober and feel like I’m in a coffee shop on the Upper West Side talking politics while doing the Times crossword puzzle.

We spend the next ten minutes waiting for the doctor as we process Jeffrey Epstein.  A woman wails in guttural pain next door and the shackled prisoner finally falls asleep.

 

 

 

 

 

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