In preparation for her annual TexMex Margarita Party, I've been helping Sara here and there with CostCo trips and setup and the like. Yesterday, the day of the party, she asked if I'd mind chopping vegetables for the tacos. No problem.
I lined up the head of lettuce on the cutting board and picked up the knife with care. Shredding lettuce requires multiple thin cuts transversed by a few thicker ones. It's a fairly straight-forward procedure, and I turned to, moving very slowly and deliberately. After about 10 minutes, Sara commented, "That's the most artistic lettuce cutting I've ever seen."
"Ah," I didn't take my eyes off what I was doing. One head of lettuce down; one more to go. "Well..." (slice the head in half; remove the core...) "This is actually only the second time I've used a knife since my hands went numb." I paused and glanced up at her. "The first was this morning. I cut up an asian pear."
I could tell from the immediate look of reserved alarm on her face that she had not considered the implications of giving me a knife. A knife which I couldn't really feel. For some reason, yesterday was an especially bad one, and the insensate area of my hands had gained in ground and intensity. I'd been judging the appropriate cutting pressure to apply purely by sight; the hand holding the lettuce was doing its best to control things on its end, for the most part successfully. Some lettuce had slipped out of my hand off the cutting board, but nothing had fallen in the floor. Nothing on the floor, and no blood: these were the goals.
Sara turned back to the enchiladas. "Did you want to do something else?" she asked carefully. "I could do that."
"Oh, no..." I moved on to the limes. Trickier, as she needed them cut into eighths, requiring holding a slippery object on point. "Unless you mind me moving so slowly, I need the practice." The knife skidded down the side of the peel and cut into my thumb nail. I started over, with the same result. Got it on the third try.
"You okay there, Kate?"
"Yup." I miscalculated the amount of pressure needed, and a lime wedge slid across the cutting board; the knife twisted, smacking into my hand with a fleshy thump.
"Katie?" Her voice was different than before. I looked at her quzzically, concerned. She held my gaze, appearing slightly fearful. "You know I faint at the sight of blood." This is actually true; she's passed out more than a half a dozen times in her life. I had forgotten.
The cutting board was covered in juice. I was going so slowly, it bordered on the ridiculous; Sara had completed three separate tasks from start to finish in the time it was taking me to cut a single bag of limes into eighths. But I wanted so badly to finish cutting the limes into wedges. And there was just one left.
"I promise," I told her in the most assuring tone I could muster, "that I want to see my own blood even less than you do. I'll wash off the board so I'll have more traction. I'm almost finished; I can do this." I don't know why it mattered -- it was just a lime. But it did. It was imperative that I finish what I'd started.
After the party, a few of us sat around playing cards until 1am. And the only person wearing a bandaid was Sara -- a preemptive measure, in case her hangnail started to bleed.