top of page

How To Lose Your Finger & Your Mind Too

A story of injury in the city.

(Watch me perform this piece below, if you prefer! If you prefer to read, keep on scrollin'):

It’s two o’clock in the morning on a Sunday and I am drunk. I am not belligerent. I am not blacked out. I am good ole’ fashion drunk. Santa Clause drunk. Slurring-Auntie-Suzy-who-recently-launched-her-own- bedazzled-handbag-line-after-her-liberating-divorce drunk.

American drunk.

I am inside a fabulous country-western gay bar in the thick of Hell’s Kitchen. The bar is called “Flaming Saddles” which I think might be the best/most-creative gay bar name in all of New York. I’m wearing a dress the color of Seattle wild salmon that has a very low neckline. My boobs spill out of the top, like two giant scoops of ice-cream that can not be sustained by their meek cone. Every fifteen minutes or so my partner informs me that my nipple is showing.

“Free the nipple!” I slur like an idiot every time she pulls up my top. I then proceed to make invasive eye-contact with whoever is next to me and earnestly ask “why do we even sexualize women’s nipples?”—as if I’m a freshman at an insufferable liberal arts college fresh off of her first gender studies class.

My partner chuckles 'cause she’s had a few herself.

I look at the bar. It is now covered with boys with beautiful bodies wearing nothing but skimpy white undies and knee-grazing cowboy boots. They're line dancing across the top of the bar table like the girls from “Coyote Ugly.”

I turn to my friends Luke* and Ryan.* “Do you remember that time one of them accidentally STOMPED on my finger with their cowboy boot?” They nod enthusiastically. Oh do they both remember! My hand was a darkly-romantic, maudlin eggplant purple for a whole week.

I slurp down the remains of my tequila soda. Six lemons are smushed into the glass exactly as I requested. Maybe things are finally looking up?

The wise woman who lives inside of me (her name is Sharon) taps me on the shoulder. She whispers into my ear. I shiver. She smells like she's rolled around in a bottle's worth of "Shalimar" by Guerlain and rubbed her hair into an ash-tray made up of Virginia Slim cigarettes. “Zara.” She hushes in her no-nonsense Mid-Western accent. “Go home, girl. It’s the witching hour. Nothing good happens after 2AM. It’s 2:15AM. Watch it.” She warns, pulling out a piece of Ruby Fruit gum, popping it into her coral-colored lips, loudly smacking.

“I know, Sharon.” I flag down the bartender with a freshly manicured hand. I quietly marvel over how long and sexy my nails look. I’ve always had exquisite hands. “One more drink and I’m home darling. Promise.” I wink at Sharon.

She rolls her eyes and stomps out of the gay country-western bar, her sensible Coach purse banging against her thick Mormon hips as she exits the premise. I can hear her gum land against the pavement and then the flick of her signature yellow bic lighter from inside of this noisy nightclub club that’s currently blasting that new Taylor Swift gay anthem.

“SHADE NEVER MADE ANYBODY LESS GAY!” Taylor Swift screams through the speakers as a bunch of intoxicated southern-bred gay boys lose their minds. They are yee-hawin' and grindin' on each other; dancing like prom queens; singing their queer hearts out with palpable passion and raw emotion. They're clearly having a reparative experience. I can’t imagine that most country-western bars in the south take kindly to gay boys who squeal to T. Swift whilst clad in ass-less chaps. It's an honor to watch them undo years and years of small-town trauma on the dance-floor. Oh, how I love gay bars. I think for the one millionth time in my life.

I suck down my drink at the speed of wild-fire spreading across the California desert and realize I’m recklessly plummeting down the highway, heading toward a ~dangerous~ part of town: Blackout City. I really need to quit while I’m ahead and stay here in sweet, *safe* Buzzedville, USA. I detest blackouts and already suffer from acute anxiety—I can’t afford to add a post-blackout shame spiral into my already too-cluttered mental illness mix. Plus, I don’t want to be tempted into sloshing down one of those spirit-sucking Adderall pills—which often happens when I stay out past 2AM because you see—I'm tired and burned out from both art and life.

“Let's go home pretty please,” I slur to my partner. She looks fabulously New York in black leather and a shiny black Member’s Only jacket and pointy black boots. She's clutching a cocktail like it's a trophy and her eyes are gleam in the way all buzzed people's eyes gleam: Muted glitter vacant and sweetly vibrational.

“Who are you and what have you done with Zara?!” My partner beams, proudly. For a moment she reminds me of my father. This makes me feel both safe and like a stifled teen girl at once. I bookmark the these juxtaposing feelings—grateful to finally have a solidified topic to process in therapy later in the week. I'm like every other clown in town. I always feel this underlying pressure to deliver my shrink useful content that will stimulate her.

“Come on,” she meows strutting toward the door.

"See Sharon?" I sheepishly wink beneath my breath. I follow my partner toward the exit.

The door is heavy. It’s an iron door that swings both ways. A bisexual door. I halt by the door to take a grounding moment, like they tell you to do in yoga class. I do need to steady myself in these stupidly high platform espadrilles I'm donning (a trend I am *so* over, I'd rather take a bubble bath with Melania Trump than merely glance at another pair of goddamn espadrilles). My left-hand rests by the hinge of the heavy door, my right hand is pressed against my hip because I want to look fiercely maternal for all of the the young gay boys littered across ninth avenue. They look like sex on feet in their shredded tank tops and jean shorts and $550 Gucci plastic slides.

Someone sneaks behind me and suddenly slams the door shut. My finger is caught in the hinge of the door.

The next thing I know I am screaming. I fly onto ninth avenue and see blood everywhere. Bright, fire-engine red blood. It's so theatrical it looks fake. It looks like the kind of blood one buys at one of those tacky Halloween shops that pop up all over fourteenth street during the month of October. I stumble into a phone booth. It smells like Hell's Kitchen in the summer. By which I mean, it smalls like crack pipes and dehydrated male urine and rat dander and hot pizza. My eyes fall and crash land against my hand. The tip of my fingertip is dangling. Like dangling. By a thread. What is this thread? I fixate on my dangling fingertip. What is this thread? What is this thread? WHAT IS THIS THREAD? DO I HAVE THREADS INSIDE OF ME? AM I EVEN REAL? I feel myself start to spin. Is my deepest fear finally being validated? That I'm not a girl with organs and a heart, but a doll, sewn together with cloth and thread?

"YOUR DRESS!" I can hear Ryan gasp in the background. My eyes dart to. my dress. My oh so pretty salmon colored dress is covered in blood. My city-bruised legs are also covered in blood. I look up. My partner is also covered in blood. Luke takes one glance at the scene, screams into the starless sky and bolts into the nearest bodega. Seconds later he reappears with a cup of ice. My finger has gone completely numb. It reminds me of the time they gave me lidocaine before I got lip injections and I couldn’t feel my lips for three days and kept drooling wine down the side of my face.

My partner shoves my hand into the plastic cup, which happens to be a peaceful shade of lavender. Since when do bodegas sell plastic *lavender* cups? How nice that would be for a picnic. I hate those nasty red solo cups the college kids use, don’t you? I sing-song in my head.

The lavender cup is instantly filled to the brim with blood. My blood.

The blood is a beautiful, vibrant red. I can't help but marvel at its unapologetic red-ness. I start to wish—like really, really wish they made a nail polish in this exact shade. I think of the iconic, Diana Vreeland longtime editor of VOGUE magazine, who was once quoted saying: “All my life I’ve pursued the perfect red. I can never get painters to mix it for me. It’s exactly as if I’d said, ‘I want Rococo with a spot of Gothic in it and a bit of Buddhist temple’—they have no idea what I’m talking about. About the best red is to copy the color of a child’s cap in any Renaissance portrait.” I wonder if my blood is the perfect red Diana Vreeland famously coveted but never found. I stay stuck on this thought to distract myself from the super un-chic fact that we’re going to the hospital and I’m deeply terrified of all medical facilities.

The next thing I know I am in the Hell's Kitchen ER and everyone is yelling at me. “Don’t look at your finger, you’ll faint!” I don’t look at my finger—not because I don’t want to faint (I enjoy the occasional faint, such 1950s movie star ~swag~)—but it's just that I prefer to think about Diana Vreeland and her yearning for "Rococo red" and the fabulous, fashion as fuck dinner parties she'd throw in her New York apartment, where she'd seat Warhol next to The Princess of Qatar next to a convict-turned-graffiti-artist next to a conservative politician next to Lou Reed next to a downtown drag queen. I want my brain to swirl with thoughts of pretty things—pink quilted Chanel clutches, oversized tortoiseshell sunnies on a beatific day in the south of France, hollow-cheeked models who look more alien than woman cat-walking down the runway with dead eyes in Milan, haute couture, private jets, mid-century modern houses in Palm Springs—not ugly things like a finger-nail less finger with the tip hanging off, gushing with blood, ruining everyone’s outfits. Those stains will never come out. I am suddenly wracked with guilt. A lady never stains anyone else’s garments but her own. At least that's what mother preaches.

Luke and Ryan come rushing through the doors of the Emergency Room. They're wide-eyed and gorgeous. Ryan is holding my Chanel bag. He is holding it protectively like it’s a scared child who's mommy is hurt. All of that is true. The Chanel bag costs as much as a child and her mommy (me) is indeed hurt. She’s about to lose the tip of her fucking finger.

Wait. What?

“We might have to do a partial amputation.” The doctor, an attractive but nerdy thirty-something clips matter-of-factly. I forget all about Diana Vreeland and Chanel and the gorgeous gay boys who have come to my rescue.

“I’M A FUCKING WRITER I CAN’T LOSE THE TIP OF MY FINGER,” I bellow like a buffoon. There is a guy in a prison uniform shackled to the bed next to me. I send him a dose of good energy before yelling again at the doctor. “Seriously! I can’t lose my finger! I have to write!” A subtle smile can't help but creep across my face. Finally, I know what it feels like to be an injured ballerina—a secret, long-standing fantasy of mine. Not just being a ballerina, but an injured ballerina. A broken ballerina. A fallen ballerina. How glamorous and tragic and poetic is THAT? And I don't know if you know this about me, but I live for glamour and tragedy and poetry.

“Either way babe you are going to have to take a break from writing,” My partner says evenly, knowing I’m about to erupt into flames. After all: writing is all I have in this cruel, cold, world. It’s how I make my money. It’s how I release the demons that plague my tarnished dyke soul. Without writing the demons punish me by cursing me with chronic stomach issues. I become emotionally and physically constipated without the outlet of writing. Writing is also how I ~connect~ to people in the world at large. It's my identity. Without writing I’m just another empty Jewish girl who lives in midtown west wondering why her life is so meaningless and why she has so few real friends and why her meds aren’t filling the gaping voids, even though she’s upped the dosage, like, ten times.

“Look, babe! At least you finished your book.” My partner chirps brightly. Too brightly. I look at her long Bambi fingers with disdain and feel a deep swell of resentment rise like the tides inside of my chest. Easy for you to say, bitch. You have working fingers. The red midst of rage filters my vision. Regardless of my fury toward the bitch for have working fingers—she’s still right. I handed the first draft of my manuscript over to my editor this morning. I banged out that 95,000-word book in three weeks. Almost killed myself writing it, but loved every second of it in that weird, masochistic, addictive, creative way that just hurts so good. I start cackling like a psychopath.

“Why are you laughing?” Everyone asks, in musical theatre style unison.

“It’s just like the final fuck you from the writing gods. You’ll lose your mind, your friends, your social life while writing this book…and your finger too, bitch.”

“Maybe it’s a sign,” Luke whispers his eyes lighting up like a mystic. I know he’s right but I’m not ready to go there. We’ll save that for when I’m covered in my weighted blanket high on valium or something.

Luke lowers his head and murmurs to the doctor, “they won’t have to amputate right?” His long eyelashes sweep across the room, cleaning the bad energy out of the ER like his lashes are a broom. His lashes are in fact so pretty and so plush looking I want to curl up in them and take a nice long nap. I make a mental note to ask him if he uses an eyelish stimulator at a more appropriate time.

The emergency room doors swing open. Time stands still. I know who it is before I even see their faces. I can smell their obscure expensive perfume and I can see the vape from their jewel pens billowing beneath the hospital doors.

It’s Violet and Beatrix. The good-time train has arrived. The girls are in town, honey. The bitches are back! Now shit is *really* going to get fun.

Violet’s curly hair hovers over the top of her head like a beautiful brunette halo. Beatrix is wearing a pretty pale blue floor-length dress. Their eyelids hang halfway down the whites of their eyes like they’ve just smoke a thousand joints, but they still look so hot every male doctor (and shackled prisoner patient, alike) stares at them like Bella and Gigi Hadid have just waltzed through the doors. Only they are far better than Bella and Gigi could dream of being. These girls have the kind of deep leather-bound souls no celebrity offspring could ever dream of possessing—for you need to have been told "no" a lot to score such a deliciously weathered soul.

The next thing I know all of us, the whole motley crew is packed into a tiny room where I’m about to have my fingertip sewed back on.

“HAVE YOU TAKEN ANY DRUGS TONIGHT? I NEED TO KNOW.” Barks the nurse, her gaze shoots daggers into my face.

“Just alcohol,” I say smugly because if this were four years ago I would've likely had to answer a shameful “yes” which would mean they wouldn’t give me pain medication and I would have to suffer through finger surgery and feel the agony whilst coming down from cocaine. God it’s nice to grow up and not do horrible things like snort coke into your nostrils, isn’t it?

The nurse can tell I’m not lying. I suspect she’s a former party girl and former party girls *always* know if people are on or off drugs. Our drug judgment is amazing and it never fails. I could tell you what drugs you took three days ago, my party girl instincts are so spot on. If only I could monetize that skill.

“Everyone needs to leave so they don’t faint.” The cute/nerdy doctor orders. His cheeks are flushed because of Violet and Beatrix (or maybe Luke and Ryan who knows? We’re in Manhattan).

“My dad is an oncologist,” Violet says smugly. She saddles next to me and fearlessly stares at the finger everyone has been firmly schooled not to look at.

“I’m not scared of blood,” Luke says batting his long, luxe lashes.

“I’m not going anywhere,” Ryan says stroking my Chanel child.

“I’m her wife,” My partner hisses putting her hands on her hips as if to say “do you want to get sued for homophobia, dude?” (He clearly does not).

“I made her wedding suit,” Beatrix says, pointing to my partner. “I should be here too.”

The doctor sighs and injects me right in the hand with a giant needle full of pain meds.

“I heard about that fuckboy who ghosted you. The nerve!” I roar to Violet right as the needle penetrates the delicate skin of my hand.

“I know. I’m taking a break from dating. Men in New York are the worst.” Violet isn’t wearing makeup and in her tiny shorts with her skinny little chicken legs swinging up and down from the operating table she’s perched on—she looks about fourteen.

“We are the worst” the doctor agrees as he begins dutifully sewing the tip of my finger back onto the rest of my finger.

“I think my Ambien is kicking in,” says Beatrix. Her pupils are big and she looks like she’s on acid. Watching a finger get sewed on after dosing yourself with Ambien must be trippy.

“My edibles are just kicking in now too,” Violet says nervously. All of a sudden she’s not the confident doctor’s daughter. She’s high off the marijuana mints I gifted her after my last LA trip. Those bitches are strong. I can tell the heaps of blood and the destroyed finger and the shackled prisoner next to us are starting to give her a bad high.

“Have you read the book ‘Luckiest Girl Alive’“? I ask the group, suddenly feeling very literary.

“No.” Everyone responds in perfect unison, including the doctor.

“It’s so good. It’s about this girl who gets gang-raped in high school by these preppy motherfuckers and now she’s this super successful magazine editor who is about to get married to a preppy motherfucker who strikes freakish parallels to the same guys who raped her. ONLY you find out that this columbine school shooting situation—wait, I don’t want to give it away just read it. It’s sick. In the best way.” The doctor seems intrigued by the book. Suddenly I decide he’s nice and not wearing a wedding ring and I should totally hook him up with Violet and Beatrix. So what if they’re tripping out! Those girls can handle anything.

“So, girls. What’s it like to BE SINGLE in New York.” I ask, emphasizing the word "single."

They both dive into respective monologues about how the dating scene in New York is more treacherous than going to TJ Maxx during a sale (not that either of them have likely been to a TJ Maxx). I can’t help myself, I join in. “I am SO GLAD I’m a DYKE,” I yell to no one in particular.

“Gay men can suck too,” Luke says.

“Not as much as straight men,” we all say at the same time, including the doctor.

I look over at Violet. Her golden skin is taking on a strange green shade. She needs to go home before this high gets really bad and she ends up in the psych ward strapped to a gurney. I look over at Beatrix. Her eyes are slits and I can tell she’s dreaming while she’s awake which is what happens when you stay up on Ambien. I don’t want her to do something bizarre in the hospital. I want my pain meds and with these delinquents around me, no one is going to prescribe me Vicodin.

I tell the girls to leave. Gratitude radiates off of their bodies. It radiates off of my body too. I mean they came to visit me at 3 AM after they took their sleeping pills. I could cry I love them so. The energy in the room is positive because of all the gratitude and real friendship and I hope the poor prisoner can feel it because I know how negative prison is. Someone I deeply love has been there for a very long time.

Luke and Ryan stay, stroking my Chanel looking fresh like they have just stepped off the ferry in the Fire Island Pines. A new nurse comes waltzing in. “We’re going to give you Percocet.” She purrs. She looks a little high herself. I mean it is 5AM in the ER in Hell’s Kitchen. Anything to take the edge off the all-consuming sadness of the hysterical, disenfranchised people lurking about, mangled and on the brink of overdose, let down by the system.

“I love a Percocet moment!” Ryan practically sing-songs. I shoot him a bitchy look. Do not fuck this up for me, boys. My inner junkie is protective of her pills. (I don’t even like painkillers, but my inner junkie is hardwired to collect as many prescriptions as possible—because why not?).

I nod like a nun who has just been offered a used bible to recite to a room full of naughty children. Business as usual.

The doctor leaves the room to grab some gauze and a splint for my finger.

“Wait!” Luke says, his tone very serious. I fear he is going to tell me my finger has been sewn on backward (I still haven’t looked at it).

“Can we process the Jeffery Epstein saga?” We all sigh. The sex-offender/disgraced financier has just been found dead in his jail cell this very morning. He had all the tea on Trump and was apparently going to spill it. There is *so much* to unpack here.

“Well, I don’t think it was suicide, for one.” I say. I am now fully sober and feel like I’m in a coffee shop on the Upper West Side talking politics whilst doing the Times crossword puzzle.

We spend the next ten minutes waiting for the doctor as we process Jeffrey Epstein. A woman wails in guttural pain next door and the shackled prisoner finally falls asleep.


bottom of page