I have a wary, mistrustful relationship to my toenails. The thought, introduced early on by my father, that the baby toenail was an unnecessary fixture, which might as well drop out of the human equation forever, if evolution worked that way, made me resent my littlest toenail slightly. At the same time the thought of a bare all-flesh nubbin was not a pleasant one.

At sixteen, jumping up from the table in frustration at a sewing project gone awry, I knocked over my chair, which fell squarely onto my big toe. The nail turned a deep plum and began to loosen itself at the sides, unsticking itself completely over the course of a few weeks until it was only held on by a sort of hinge at the base, and flapped unnervingly when the bandage that bound it flat came off in the swimming pool. When the whole thing did finally detach, the beginnings of a new nail were revealed, so I never did get to see my toe as bare and soft as a nose. The new nail, bizarrely thick and rounded, moved slowly across my toe, and it was more than a year before it looked normal again. Its faint ripples are still more pronounced than those of its twin.