There is nothing more captivating than pain. Other people’s pain. I’d be happy to tell you why, but the guy at the next table is explaining the time he drilled a hole in his palm.
I’m not talking about the big stuff. I’m talking about fishhook-in-the-ear, hatchet-through-the-toe, eyebrow-singeing pain. The things that cause people to shake heads and cover mouths; not in shock, but to hide that nasty, lip-curling grin creeping over their face. They don’t ask it to; it just does.
Three weeks back, I stepped on what felt like the longest, sharpest piece of metal ever machined. It struck unseen, a ten-penny ninja. What it was doing in my carpet, I don’t know. Perhaps it was resting after the journey from the fiery cauldrons of Hades that spawned it.
The girlfriend came out of the kitchen, wiping her hands on a towel.
“Did someone kill a cat?”
“That was me.”
You can actually see respect vanish right before your eyes. I made a mental note to do something manly in the near future.
After a brief interpretive dance titled “Ow, Mommy, it hurts,” I hobbled to the couch, collapsing in wounded-warrior fashion. The girlfriend came closer.
“Does it hurt?”
“What do you think?”
“Don’t bleed on the cushions.” It’s not a new relationship.
During the National Installation Competition at Surfaces 2000, a competitor nearly separated himself from one of his fingers. The clock was ticking, so he did what any installer would do; wrapped it, taped it, and got on with the job.
I’ve shaken the hands, noticed the limps, observed the scars; there’s no segment of the floor covering industry more demanding than installation. This isn’t the nick-and-cut set; think punctured kneecaps, torn ligaments, arthroscopic surgeries, bulging discs, swimming cartilage. A tougher, more dedicated group you will never meet.
Between whimpers, I watched her scrutinize the floor, then reach down and pluck something up from between the fibers, frowning.
I sat up, mentally filing suit against the boat captain who had misplaced his harpoon.
She tossed the offending fastener onto the coffee table and walked back to the kitchen. I leaned back against the pillows, lacing my fingers behind my head, nodding slightly. Thumbtack.
Perhaps I’ll invest in slippers.