WARNING: The following column contains content of a graphic nature. Some may find it disturbing, revolting, nauseating or down right icky-poo. Reader discretion is advised!

The following story is a fictitious fabrication, based on true events that never happened. Names, places and the entire situation have been changed to protect the guilty because no one is truly innocent.

Many work amongst manglers. Machines that if you get too close, or don’t adhere to safety protocol, they will fubar you in a heartbeat. Such was the case and now there’s blood all over the place. Maintenance carefully disassembles the plastic pipe cutting machine. Hourly employees dig warily through mounds of plastic debris. All in search of an index phalanx, severed just below the metacarpal ­— a pointy finger hacked off at the knuckle. Assuming the dismembered digit is lost somewhere in the vast network of the suction collection system, which removes debris from machines and particles from the air, management calls off the search because production precedes humanity.

Observing the maze of pipework, someone made a disturbingly profound conclusion — “Somewhere up there, is a piece of a person. It will rot, decay and eventually find its way through. Black by then, it will blend with the recyclable plastic shards and dust. Then, allowing for 5% contamination, it will be re-fabricated into pipe, which will be fed into and cut by the same machine that removed it in the first place…perhaps by the rest of the person.”

A dismembered toe, or that’s somebody’s hand, but “a piece of a person” makes it far more disconcerting. Are we not the sum of our parts? If a piece is missing are we like an incomplete jigsaw on a Everything’s $1 yard sale table? Intentions are not to mock or make fun and those born without appendages are exempt from this observation. Rather, to consider and understand the psychology of literally losing a piece of oneself.

Assuredly when a part is surgically removed it’s less traumatic than when one is lost industrially. But still the mentality following may be similar. Unless it’s internal — does anyone miss their appendix? What about pieces that are surgically reattached —do they ever really feel like they should still be there? If a part is reattached then rejected by the whole does that mean it was never meant to be a part of the whole?

Losing a limb by nature, via shark or bear (shudder), has to have its own psychologically challenging ramifications. The horrific realization that people can be eaten and are just a step up from the turkey slices you buy at the deli counter. Does this bring forth some form of mortal enlightenment? Or do you just not go out as much?

By whatever means, when we literally lose a piece of our person, are we ever truly whole again? Or does whole become redefined? As long as our conscious core stays intact does our soul stay in place? Or do we lose a bit of us with each piece of us lost?

Perhaps we never truly lose pieces. What if we are just no longer able to perceive the visual physical manifestation of them? Patients who have lost appendages oft experience “phantom limb phenomenon.” They feel an itch or try to use a piece that is no longer a part of them. Medical professionals tell us this is just a mental twitch of familiarity but what if it’s not? What if the piece is still there we just can’t see it?

They say we shouldn’t judge people by their outward appearance; that’s not truly who they are. Forget personality traits, what if that’s literal. Beneath the surface, inside the shell, under the skin, within the pieces of us lie our real selves. Our minds just require our bodies as visual aid and without them we don’t know how to use our true selves. Only when all the pieces are gone will we see the whole and complete puzzle.

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