The Saga of the Toenail

So it’s clearly time to stop thinking about all this pointless, whiny nonsense about my “career,” and whether or not any recent markers of “success” or “failure” indicate that perhaps I’ve made some colossal “miscalculation” about whether I was in fact “meant” to do the thing that I’ve spent the last fourteen years or so of my “life” in preparation to “do,” or whether there exist such “inequities” in our prevailing “social structure” and “institutional climate” that no amount of “talent” or “hard work” on my part could possibly allow me to “achieve” the thing that I’ve been convinced that I “want,” when, in fact, it may well turn out that I just “don’t.”

Enough of that. There are more important things for us to consider.

Like my toenail.

The nail of the toe that is right next to my big toe, on my right foot. The nail which I discovered day before yesterday is in an advanced state of toe-abandonment, and is preparing to pull up stakes and light out for the territories.

Despite previous issues here described, I’ve never lost a toenail before, and I’m just not sure what to expect. Interestingly, the one I’m losing is not the one I expected to lose; this one’s on a whole other foot, and is a normal toenail, as toenails go. A toenail that has never given me a minute’s trouble.

The toe proper has tended to blister a bit, in recent years, when I run, on the top edge next to my big toe, because I think the big toe overlaps it a bit and rubs in an inappropriate way when I run. So I’ve dealt with blistering and callusing and general nastiness, but that’s the nature of toes. I never thought much of it, and just tried to keep after it with the pumice stone, when I could.

Post-marathon, though, once I could bring myself to look at my feet again — something I resisted at first because I wasn’t sure what state the toe I’d had trouble with before was going to be in — I discovered that, in fact, the nail of the bad toe had gone completely black, and there was a bit of blistering, and I thought, here we go, dead toenail walking. I never expected the other foot to have gotten in on the act, but, in fact, it had.

The usual blister-on-edge-near-big-toe was there. But the blister extended around over the tip of the toe, in a way I’d never seen before. I didn’t think much of it at first, assuming that it would reabsorb, as things do, and I’d be able to go on ignoring that toe, as I have pretty much all my life, but for the pumicing.

Instead, the blister grew a bit. Not much — no elephantiasis of the toe or anything — but just enough that it became uncomfortable. Shoes were no fun. So I did the thing one has to do with such a blister, and let me just say that it was nasty. It turned out that there was a small pool of blood right under the edge of my toenail, but I got it drained out, and all seemed well.

Over spring break, I got a pedicure. All of my toenails were a lovely red, and my calluses and blisters professionally attended to.

And because of the red, I had no idea anything was amiss, until earlier this week, when I noticed that my toenail just… didn’t look… right. Like it was at a weird angle or something. And I reached down to touch it, and it moved. And the uncanniness of this can only be compared to that feeling of moving your tongue around a tooth, as a kid, and suddenly feeling that tooth’s edge separating from your gums, and knowing that teeth aren’t supposed to do that.

The toenail is about eighty percent detached, at this point. The last twenty percent is not letting go, and — I say from unfortunate experience — screams like a mofo if you do something like catch it funny on a sock you’re trying to put on. So the whole thing is band-aided over, until the inevitable separation finally takes place.

From what I can tell, what’s underneath is none too attractive. This toe is not likely to see the outside of a band-aid for some time.

The stupid bloody toe from before, though, is soldiering on, as ever. Toenail still black under the red polish, but going nowhere.

And isn’t that just the way of things.

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