“Oh, Juliette… he got a splinter.”
“No worries, I’m on it. Mark…?”
“NNNNNOOO! NOOOO! DON’T TOUCH IT! DOOOOON’T!”
Mark sobs all the way from the living room to the bedroom, a three-metre trip that takes him five minutes. You’d think I just told him the candy manufacture went on strike or that there’s never gonna be another Pirate of the Caribbean sequel.
“Nothing, mom. Just about to perform some splinter-removal magic.”
My parents laugh. Been there, done that—except that thirty years ago, I was the crying kid with a splinter in her heel.
Many French apartments have original solid wood floor that can be several hundred years old, usually in the living room. And I’m not talking about finished, shiny flooring but the old kind several generations of occupants polished with elbow grease and bee wax. Once in a while, a small, sharp piece of wood ends up under your skin—that’s the price to pay for old flooring.
One of my earliest memories is of being seated on the couch with my dad (who was in his early twenties back then) and a friend of his. They are both trying to comfort me but they are freaking out because they have no idea to remove a splinter in my feet and we are waiting for my mom to come back.
Apparently, only women know how to remove splinters—probably because we have some eyebrow plucking experience—a job that invariably involves a bit of patience, a steady hand and a pair of tweezers.
“MOMMY! DON’T! DON’T TOUCH MEEE!”
“Okay, okay, calm down… did I ever hurt you?”
“NO BUT YOU WILL! THERE’S GONNA BE BLOOOOD!”
Mark rarely cries nowadays. When he does, it’s usually because he is genuinely scared or hurt.
“Mark… I know exactly how you feel. Trust me, I do. The splinter doesn’t hurt and removing it won’t either. It’s just the idea of it that’s scary.”
I remember clearly how terrified I was when I had a splinter. I can’t explain why exactly… maybe the idea of a foreign body under my skin, much like people are scared of needles.
Feng handed Mark a piece of chocolate. “Come on, be brave!”
“You can have it after I remove the splinter.”
“NOW THE CHOCOLATE IS GONNA MELT ALL OVER,” he sobbed.
“Not if I do it quick… gimme your foot. Okay, start eating the chocolate. One, two… here, got it. Did it hurt?”
“Huh… no. But mommy… my hand…”
Okay, the square of Lindt creamy milk chocolate had melted in his hand.
That’s when Feng snapped the picture, Mark with a brave look on his face and me holding the tweezers and Mark’s left hand (because chocolate).
One of these moments…