I saw black. Swirling colors, blending, changing, layers upon layers, but in the end, it's always black...or so it seemed.
Life often turns to black, sometimes quick, sometimes slowly, but always first through subtle shadings and blends of blue and purple...and these are the colors that dominate...the colors that haunt...the colors that skewer themselves into the recesses of my vision when I look. Yes, they are the colors of bruises, the colors of wounds, the colors of pain, the colors of sharp, brutal impact. They are the colors I saw when I looked at my bruised left pinky toe's nail.
As often is the case, the pain came in the middle of celebration, of raucous hedonism, of unbridled joy. There was the joyous cacaphony of gathered friends, the warmth of the summer's sun warming the gathering place, the allure of summer evening dew in the air. The sounds were soon to fade, as usually is the case when that harsh mistress who goes under the subtle guise of Miller High Life is involved. The summer sun was soon to recede and fade, giving way instead to the biting wind and snowy sponge that is an Ohio winter. And the dew was soon to turn into a vicious, biting damp that would penetrate your flip-flop and aggrevate the subtly burning athelete's foot subtly brewing within the toes.
The act itself was inconsequential, merely a gentle stubbing. There was pain, yes, there is always pain, but it was soon blotted out by the festivities of the evening. There were friends to talk to, hot dogs to be eaten, beers to be consumed, subsequent hangovers to be suffered, and the hope, the joyous hope that soon, the good times would continue, while the pain would fade.
The pain did indeed fade, but the bruising instead came upon the scene. The pinky toe's nail started to turn yellow, almost jaundiced. The yellow darkened as the blood began to flow, then later harden. Soon, darkness overcame the pinky toe nail, which sat as a dark speck on the end of the foot. The pain turned into a bruise, which itself turned into a dark reminder that the day of celebration, of hedonism, of warmth had passed, and that as new growth occurred, the blood-stained nail would be there to remind all of the death of those former joys...one could not bring them back, anymore than one could un-bruise the pinky toe's nail.
As the blood cells coagulated, bound together in the form of a bruise-ridden mass, other relationships broke apart. The sun disappeared into a grey, snow-ridden haze. The warmth was blown away by arctic blasts. The friends dispersed, some to other parts of the country, some across the oceans to distant shores, some deep into the recesses of their own depression and angst-filled minds.
Yet bruised pinky toe nails cannot last forever...sooner or later, new growth will inevitably push out the scars of yesteryear. And indeed, as time passed, it eventually became time to sever the remains of the bruised nail. I stood over the nail, clippers in hand, ready to cut. But I could not do so, not right away. As the nail was about to be restored to unblemished health, I felt I would be accursed if I let the moment go without an appropriate memorial.
The losses of the last year had to be addressed. To my departed friends...you are missed, you will never be cut away...unlike the bruise, part of you will stay with me forever, whether you now abide across the oceans or simply in the neurotic reaches of your over-stressed skulls. Bruises fade...but you will not.
Yes, it's true that the pinky toe nail is now snipped. The bruised nail surface now resides in the trash bin. But new growth has taken its place. New growth will always occur. A new summer will soon dawn. New warmth will come. New dew will settle. New friends will be discovered. And a new nail, already growing strong, healthy, and clear, will continue to guide and guard the pinky toe.
Because black is not forever, not even in the case of bruised pinky toes.