The extra finger – by Juan M.S

Emi was almost never in the mood for laughing. She wasn’t a feminist, but she’d been raised without a father and when she was a little girl she’d asked her mother why her brother had a penis and she didn’t and her mother had told her that all men have an extra finger that helps them perform tasks women can’t perform. She remembered being outraged at this idea for long. When she’d looked at her younger brother, she’d never seen anything extraordinary in him. She’d never seen him use his magic finger, even in situations which, to her view, certainly merited it. Many times she’d demanded clarification about the magical powers of this extra digit, but her mother just hissed away from her, leaving her alone in her quest to learn about its secrets. So she didn’t actually know what it could do when their mother’s car broke down on their way to the theme park, or when her mother bought by mistake a kilo of mint ice cream: her least favorite one. In such cases, she stared at her brother with ever evanescent hope. He just stared back at her in puzzlement until she was convinced that there was something wrong with her brother’s magic wand.

But that didn’t discourage her in her resolution to find her grail; what actually shuttered her illusion was a biology lecture at primary school. The penis, which her teacher tactlessly managed to compare to a big-headed worm for lack of proper pictures and without even waiting for the confirmation of the male students present at the lecture, didn’t have any other magical features than getting women pregnant once it found its way into them. Of course those weren’t the exact words her teacher had used, but she was sure she’d understood the core of the matter. Now, this happened in the twenty-first century, so it was impossible for her not to know that the way the not-so-magic worm got into women was through sex; therefore she swore that that would never happen to her. And this not because she hated babies, she loved those slobbering balls of baggy skin, but because she’d seen her mother juggle with work and domestic problems every single day, and she subconsciously depicted the same portrait of herself as a mother. Now, I repeat, Emi wasn’t a feminist; she was just a real woman with worldly problems.

But this nuance didn’t matter, because later on, when she got into marriageable age, she was labeled as a feminist by guys who saw their maleness threatened by her. She was an idealist, and she’d never found a man whom she could connect emotionally with, so she checked her sexual impulse whenever some guy happened to arouse erotic feelings on her. But also her personality worked as a shield against potential suitors. She was opinionated and outspoken, a combination that precluded her from many young men’s hearts. Some appreciated and even esteemed her sense of humor and insightful mind, but there happened to be no chemistry between them and her, so Emi’s options for a potential partner were drastically narrowed. Thus she fought loneliness with fits of cry that she would have whenever she felt impotent to move on in life. She’d be seized by a violent desire to weep inconsolably, to abandon herself to this cathartic ritual. Because when she cried, she did it spontaneously, so her mind was free to objectify her feelings. Crying gave her a break from self-consciousness that allowed her to detach herself from her problems and see them as normal hiccups everyone has in life. Because she’d tried the opposite too; she’d tried not having anything to cry about, and it was scary. She remembered feeling empty in her early teens, and wondering about death and suicide. Then she’d started taking stances in life and putting value on certain ideas and beliefs, which actually made her who she was. So while her body cried instinctively, her mind rejoiced in the fact that she had something to cry about: she had values and ideals that were often crushed by people or revised by life, but she was glad she wasn’t an empty vessel.

But her worst struggle began when she started caring about someone in particular. She didn’t know it yet, because her conservative mindset didn’t allow her to acknowledge her romantic feelings before the man in question made overt shows of interest in her, but she felt pangs of life bursting out of her whenever she saw him. Then, one day he happened to declare his feelings to her, but the mechanistic way in which he expressed himself deeply disappointed her. She’d noticed his interest in her and she liked him for what he was, but what he’d just said sounded as if it had come from a sentient robot rather than a human being. There was no passion or enthusiasm in it; it was rather like a lecture on his biological and social needs, which included her. But he was more sensitive than she’d thought. When she sighed of frustration after his love declaration, he just looked at her full of understanding and said: “I know my words aren’t romantic, but please make allowances for my nerves and the mess of thoughts and feelings this declaration entails for me. I still remember your story of the extra finger, which we’ve laughed so much at, and I want to tell you that I do have a magic finger that pointed me towards you. And its magic power consists simply in leading me towards my happiness. Now I’m happy and I ask from you to allow me to make you happy too.” “Yes,” she said “but please don’t take your happiness for granted because then I would feel idle in front of you, and I’d like to occupy myself with the pleasant task of making you happy too.”

And that’s how she stopped being a feminist at least for one man in the world, and she became simply a woman, and when her daughter asked her why men have penises, she answered her that it was to get women pregnant, but that some men also have an extra finger.


I'm a writer born in Argentina, but currently living in Poland. I work as an English and French teacher, translator and copywriter.

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