Film, Photography, Music, and Literature by Joaquim Baeta

Twenty one thousand six hundred

The room shakes. Curtains flutter. A nurse shuts the windows to block out the noise, a compounding whirr. On the phone, a doctor wearing scrubs urges colleagues to act as the helicopter nears.

I accidentally tore the nail almost off my big toe. Well, it was accidental, all right. The imagery is stomach-churning. Your nail is ripped off your toe and hangs open like a welcoming door, as blood pours from your revealed inner flesh. You don’t want to do that purposefully. And it was almost, all right. Because like that door, the side of my nail was firmly hinged to the wall that would be the side of my toe.

So, I looked down and I saw the open door and I speechlessly shut it. Then I patiently waited for the clerk to ring up my bottle of water and nine packets of chewable vitamin C tablets. She took her time ringing up those nine packets. She counted them. Satu. Dua. Tiga. Empat. Lima. Enam. Tujuh. Delapan. Sembilan. Nine packets. And I looked down at my red toe, red sandals (in fairness, they were already red, but they were redder now, I tell you), red fingers, and then I wiped those fingers together to disperse the blood, lest I startle the clerk with a scarlet sight. Nine packets. She asked me if I wanted to donate a portion of the cost to charity, or I assume that’s what she asked, because I just said yes so she’d get to the next phase of the transaction.

More rumbling, but this is just a rather heavy person walking around.

As I was saying, I said yes. Then I paid, and she, who expressed concern to the extent that she thought I’d innocently bumped my foot and oofed more in surprise than pain, was none the wiser to my predicament. Good for her, she doesn’t need that stress, she’s just a kid. But the man I passed on the way out was not so fortunate. He saw me stumbling ever so subtly on the surface of my sandal, made slippery by the flow of blood, and involuntarily had his face drop. There went his day, for five minutes, anyway. After that, it might have been a funny story of the bule who—