When you were little you sucked your thumb at night, the sweet wrinkled fruit of it. It was your talisman, an everlasting gobstopper, the one thing that made it better. Nothing could entice you to give it up, not reason, bribery, punishment. The bitter liquid painted on at night took hours to get through. Picture yourself with bloodshot eyes in the dark, swallowing acetone and formaldehyde, desperate to get past the nausea to the comfort. This is how you learned to be stubborn. The shape of your mouth deformed, your hillbilly teeth that eventually had to be pulled in with braces that tore blisters into your cheeks and still there was nothing that stopped you crying as well as your thumb fit in your mouth, thumbprint pressed against the roof, tongue to nailbed, and finally sleep.
You sucked it so hard that it melted down into nothing. It wasn't immediate; it was smaller and less comfort and smaller and less comfort and smaller still and one day you woke and you had no thumbs left. Gone. And you tried to talk about it, about how your thumb was gone, but your tongue was searching inside your mouth for what it lost and it stuck to your palate and everyone said you were sulking so you were. How can you complain about what you have lost when everyone was trying to get you to let it go anyway? You can't. Your mourning is ridiculous so you make it a secret, make a curtain of hair and cry behind it and learn swallow your tears, more bitter medicine.
Of course you didn't suffer forever; you're not suffering now. At some point you learned to enjoy your fingers and all the things you can touch when your hand isn't covering your mouth. Velvet, polished wood, the soft fur of some animals. The spines of books and people. You learned words like prestidigitation and dealt cards in a club where, as someone said, what we risk reveals what we value. You have nothing to lose anymore and so mostly you win.
Sometimes you bite your fingers, not the nails but the skin around, until they bleed. Sometimes you eat like you're afraid someone will take your plate away even though you don't understand words like hungry and full. Sometimes you smoke cigarette after cigarette and for a moment it's like the red glow in the dark is going to get you where you want to go, an airplane light across the sky of your need, but this never comes true.
Most of the time you are fine, mostly you don't think about it, you are a grown up now, for goodness sake. What are thumbs for, really, to a person who has so much. Some people have lost fingers, all of them; some people have lost hands, arms. You look at the palm of your hand, the life line's elegance. Your hands are strong; your fingers are electric. Also you can break out of handcuffs without even blinking. What's the opposite of sour grapes? You have eaten the sweet deliciousness of a life made simple by loss.
And then one day someone says that you can grow your thumbs back. That you've always been able to; that it's not too late to try. Aha and what now? Yes, now what.