A coatrack stands in the fallout zone of the table saw, where a fine powder of wood dust accumulates like snow on a tree, a silent totem of the whirring blade’s ever-present threat. Standing by the coatrack at the end of class today, I thanked the instructor and waved good-bye. “Still got all my fingers,” I said.
“That’s not funny,” he said, suddenly grave.
Of course it’s not funny. The only thing even remotely funny is that he thinks my entire body is not seized in a rigor of panic every minute that the demon saw is plugged in. Or that he thinks I make calculations for cutting wood without also plotting the fastest route to the emergency room, who would drive, and how we would staunch the bleeding. I suppose it’s funny how, when I get home and take a shower, I wiggle my soapy fingers, grateful for the way they feel against my wet skin, grateful that I have them to type my thoughts at the end of the day.
One time, years ago, when I was in traffic and attempting to turn right on red, a pickup truck in the turning lane on my left kept inching forward, preventing me from seeing if I was clear to go. I met the eye of the passenger and, with some level of pique, explained silently through our two windows that his driver was impeding my turn. What was the point, when he had to wait for a green light anyway? It was a rhetorical question, but he answered by rolling down the passenger window and raising an empty Gatorade bottle. He offered words of explanation to go along with the gesture, but he didn’t need to. I already saw the severed thumb, pale against a ring of bright-orange juice. I pointed him toward the hospital and wished him good luck. I hope he got to keep his finger.