I used a nail-clipper for the first time in a good five, six years on my toes the other night. Watching TV, pretending to condescend to the auditions on AMERICAN IDOL, but secretly sort of enjoying the program, rooting them on to false dreams of redemption. I realized that the keychain that I twirled had a tool on its end. I flicked open the clipper, took a gander at my feet, whistled a little bit. Not the prettiest of sights, those feet, not the kind of transformative view that cause sentimental people to compose memorable poems or eulogies that might last. (But a blog post, well, what the hell.)
I’d almost forgotten how to use a nail clipper, that’s how long it’d been. Which is not to say that my toenails were swirling and conspiring against each other in a grotesque foot embrace; I didn’t look like one of those Indian holy men in the Guiness Book Of Records, those emaciated souls who always seem to hold the title of ‘World’s Longest Fingernails’ or ‘No Sleep For Ten Years’. The nails were probably shorter than average, if a little ragged. You see, I belong to that subspecies of humans who pick the nails on their hands and the ones on their feet. (I’ve been known to chew my fingernails, but not my toenails; I have standards. Not many, and they’re usually quite low, but I do have them.) If you’re grossed out, that’s your right; just remember: what you, yourself, tend to do with your body’s strange parts, when you think you’re alone, and that nobody is watching, could very well cause your close friends to freak out. (You know who you are.)
Oddly involving, clipping is. For a moment or two I felt like a young Ralph Macchio, snipping and shaping his bonsai tree to perfection. (I then realized that I am currently eleven years older than Macchio was when he filmed the first Karate Kid film, and that I’m nineteen years older than the actual character’s age. Me, almost two decades older than Daniel LaRusso? That’s a little absurd. I remember quite clearly watching that film at a theatre in Niagara Falls at age seven, the same weekend I moved from the only house that I’d known; wasn’t that just a few weekends ago, or a month, at the most? Looks like 1984 must be a bit farther back in my life than I’d like to believe) There’s an odd kind of Zen that descends when minute tasks are engaged. The tiny clicks that I heard almost felt sort of soothing. Something was getting done. Needless parts of myself were disregarded, abandoned.
Someday, someone might just figure out how to invent a similar gadget, one that is used exclusively for our soul’s excess layers. Stuff is accumulating there. I can feel it. Except here’s no Mr.Miyagi to help me wax on or wax off, to teach me the crane kick, the right kata to use. Think of it: we never see our nails growing; they edge onward, at night. During work. While we eat. Creeping, creeping. Stealthy, almost. Stuff attaches itself to our hearts the same way. Over time. Slights, grievances. Frustrations, anxieties. All of our hurts, swelling. Bruising, even. Only we can’t spot them grow; they linger, then fester, always unseen. There must be a physical means to erode all that pain.
Not a pill for the pain; not some stupor we willingly enter,then hide deep within. I’m thinking of a wand of some sort, one warm to the touch and quite soothing to stare at. Almost like a benign light sabre. When dark thoughts start to build, the kind that spread fast, one wave of that stick will release a form of good cheer. Such joy will dispel and disperse all that black useless gunk that rides rampant around our mind’s endless linked circuits. A holographic display will present ebony raindrops that fall from our heads to the ground in grand showers. All of our fears, dissolved. Like toenails, they’ll grow back, slowly, with force. Then out comes the wand, and we’ll clip them once more.
Until technology deems my warped wish viable, I guess I’ll have to stay vigilant, to keep tabs on my thoughts. Look for barnacles and growths that might someday become foul. Make my soul my own bonsai, and my will its plant-cutter. (Or, at the very least, think of my spirit as my big toe’s growing nail, and my humor, weak though it is, as its makeshift nail-clipper. That, too, might work.)