I saw a programme once. It was a documentary about amputees who suffered from a condition known as Phantom Limb Syndrome. Despite the fact that some of these people had had a particular limb removed some twenty years previously, they had the sensation that the limb was still there. Forever reaching out to pick up a drink with a hand that wasn’t there, yearning to put shoes on non-existent feet. I am not an amputee. I have always had two arms, two legs etc. (I once had a mole removed, but I hardly think that counts as an amputation), yet since 9:15 this morning I have felt the presence of a phantom big toe on my right foot.
I remove my socks to check. Maybe somehow I managed to slice off a toe without me noticing. Yeah, yeah in my sleep or something. No, I know that’s ridiculous, how wouldn’t I notice? Besides I can still feel all my normal toes, it’s just there’s this extra one. I wriggle my toes, yep, sure enough five healthy (slightly clammy) toes, yet I can still feel the tingling sensation that tells me there is an extra toe protruding from the side of my big toe. I give my whole foot a good scratch, replace my sock and shoe and return to my work. I stare blankly at the computer screen. What exactly is it that I do again? Something to do with numbers no doubt. Yeah that's right, I’ve always enjoyed numbers. At school maths was easy, not that you could call what I do maths. What the hell am I talking about? I never had any intention of ending up with this job. No one actually enjoys maths do they? I should have moved abroad when I had the chance, aw shit I wish that toe would go away. I remove my shoe again, just to check. No blood on my sock. Maybe my Mum and Dad had my extra toe removed from me when I was a baby and never told me. Yeah that's it, so I wouldn’t grow up feeling like I was a freak. I remove my sock and stare intently at my big toe. No scar, just that invisible bonus big toe!
“What are you doing?”
Shit, it’s Amy. She’s probably a secretary or does something with numbers as well. She is twenty two but does office chatter like someone who has been doing it for twenty years. She has blonde hair. Dyed. Wears glasses, but im sure it’s just glass in those frames.
“Oh, um just looking for, um, I mean im just scratching my toes, you know, it’s quite hot isn’t it. I mean isn’t it?”
“Do you want a cup of tea?”
“Er, no thanks im....”
Wait a second, cup of tea might wake me up a bit, help take my mind off certain fake digits. Ha ha ha, digits, numbers. Numbers, numb, thumb, numb thumb, no wait that doesn’t work, its a toe.
“...Actually yes a cup of tea would be great, thanks.”
I get up from my desk and follow Amy to the staff room. Not allowed tea at the desk anymore, we went through too many keyboards like that. I sit and listen to Amy talk about her piece of shit boyfriend and how once she’s paid their rent she has little money for any life. Why don't you get out of here then huh? Why don't you just get a better job, run away? No, you’ll never do that will you, you’ll just stay squirreling away and before long it’s too late. Oh and here's Marie who really has been doing office chatter for twenty years. Bet she’s never had to deal with non-existent limbs. Oh well, at least I don’t have to bother having to advise Amy about what to do in her relationship anymore, I can just stare. Now don’t get me wrong there's no-way I’d ever end up with an Amy (jesus, just look at her hair, I mean does she really think peroxide, ginger and dark brown looks good, especially when it has been so repeatedly straightened?) But every so often she leans forward and a little more lily-white breast rises out of her low cut top than she probably intends (or probably does). There's just something about that jiggle when she talks that, oh god I’d love to sink my dick in there! Something weirdly attractive about the fading month old tan lines on her arms and her hand where.... no, surely not. No doubt about it. Beside Amy’s little finger on her left hand there is a small stump, as if there had once been another finger there. How hadn’t I noticed this before? Ahh shit great now I can feel my toe again. Amy looks up and sees me staring at her hand. I get up and return to my desk.
My phantom toe feels crushed by my shoes. This is stupid, I know there isn't even anything there yet now its really starting to hurt. I loosen my laces which helps a little, got to concentrate on the numbers. The day is passing agonisingly slowly; I give up on work all together and concentrate on getting my minesweeper record down, toe increasingly painful, perhaps its cancer? I think I read somewhere that Bob Marley died of toe cancer. No surely that's rubbish, its not a significant enough part of the body to warrant its own cancer, must have been lung cancer he had, must have been, after all, those Jamaicans smoke all that grass don’t they, so its inevitable really. Anyway shouldn’t even think about cancer, it tempts fate, very serious cancer is.
Finally the day ends and I go home. I pop into a shop on the way and buy some aspirin. I always buy the soluble stuff, I’m sure it’s only psychological but I swear I can actually feel it enter my blood stream when I take it this way. I get home, take off my shoes to relieve the pain which has built up inside and take two of the aspirin. I feel the chill as it enters my blood. The aspirin does nothing to alleviate the throb of my phantom toe so and I try once again to ignore it. Previously in my life when I have cut myself, or that time I sprained my ankle playing football, I have managed to overcome the pain just by not thinking about it. Mind over matter. The mind is an incredibly powerful tool, I have read about people who have overcome terminal illness just by thinking positive thoughts, although I can’t help but feel that most of these peoples ‘illnesses’ were just psychosomatic anyway. I guess the mind is as much a cause as it can be a cure. Fuck. Im losing it. I’ve been thinking too much. It’s stress that’s brought this on, yeah stress. I don’t have stress. Stress happens to people under pressure in high powered jobs with responsibility, I just do something with numbers. My biggest responsibility is trying to remember family and friends birthdays, that's not stressful, one day, once a year for each person, that's not pressure. Shit, I’m thinking too much again; stop thinking, just stop thinking. Stop thinking. Do something normal and mundane to distract you. I haven’t eaten since breakfast and that can’t help can it!
I rest my foot up as I eat my dinner (potato wedges and onion rings) whilst watching T.V. (Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? followed by something about the Nazi’s). I feel nauseous and leave half my plate. I wonder whether paracetamol would be better than aspirin. I take two paracetamol and turn on my computer to check my e-mails. Today I could get cheaper car insurance or (almost inevitably) extend my penis without surgery. If only there was a way I could grow an extra big toe without surgery or at least lose the sensation that I
have a third toe. Paracetamol doesn’t work either. Maybe if I cut off my real big toe I wouldn’t feel the phantom one anymore. Wouldn’t hurt that much would it? If I numb it with ice and with a sharp knife? Would it? I type “toes” into a search engine but only a few fetish web-sites come up. I jerk off and go to bed.