They stand together on the subway. Lydia leans over and whispers in Wayne’s ear that she needs time to figure out what’s important to her, and that it may take a while. Wayne is fine with her admission, saw it coming even. He nods and shifts his weight on the unpredictable floor.
The rocking train turns as it enters a tunnel and Wayne grips tighter the silver handrail. He looks at his knuckled fist and doesn’t recognize it as his own. It’s his father’s, no, his grandfather’s hand. Even when clenched it’s wrinkled with deep, red grooves. A scattering blond hairs has thinned like those on his head. Wayne looks closer at his thumb and remembers the warm smell of a vanilla pipe.
Wayne’s grandfather was a butcher. One day he was busily sawing slabs of frozen meat and cut the tip off his right thumb. He didn’t even notice until a coworker saw the bright red blood and asked what happened. Wayne’s grandfather wrapped his hand in a towel to slow the bleeding and for nearly an hour he looked for the half-inch tip before getting back to work. He joked that it ended up in the ground chuck of some poor fool’s plate of stroganoff.
When Wayne was a kid, he sat on his grandfather’s lap and was fascinated by the stumpy thumb. He remembers his grandfather saying that he never missed the lost piece. His grandfather would bend what was left and laugh. He once told Wayne that, in fact, he’s better off without it.