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I’m always losing pieces of myself everywhere I go. Maybe a toe, a finger, a tooth, ears, eyes, along with the typical things people lose: hair, skin cells, idealism. It’s nothing to worry about. My people have a long history of losing parts here and there. Once, Grandpa Fig lost a bit of his memory down at the post office, and we had a devil of a time finding it in among all those lost letters.

Those lost letters are the real tragedy, if you really want to know. I’ve lost my fingers: countless times; but I can’t imagine losing a dear letter I sent out to Grandma or Grandpa, or to my friends. Though, really, it’s all e-mail now and sending this through the internet is like asking other people to lose your mail. Or is that any different than a miss-filing clerk?

So, my pieces. I lost a nail while building a house once. Not the nails for the house, but one on my hand, and it concerned me greatly. See, this was the magic nail, the one that showed the universe. See, when my people reach 18, we start to fall apart. It’s not a big deal, I promise it’s not. The reason is because we can always find our parts again thanks to our magic nails. If I lose my foot, I’ll never lose my footing, because I can use my magic nail (fourth one from my right) to find out where it went, a sort of footloose solver of pedperditus. Or something. My Latin is rusty because I’ve lost it somewhere.

My grandmother-- the other grandmother-- told me, “Child, it consarns me you take your nail too lightly. If’n you lose it, you lose everything.” This is how Cousin Clint died, you see. In a car accident, on account of a missing head. He had his nail, he lost his nail, then-- when driving-- he lost his head and his car went off a dike. That was how they told it: “Off a dike he went, and they never found his head. He didn’t either. BECAUSE HE LOST HIS NAIL. DON’T LOSE YOUR NAIL, AMANDA!

And so, I kept careful track of my nail. When my ear fell off for the first time, I didn’t worry. My nail told me it was in the laundry room. When my eyes fell out, my nail whispered my way down to the basement. When I lost my voice, my nail told me it was singing in the bell tower.

I kept good care of that nail. And why should I have worried? They all said, “Amanda’s a good kid, she’d never lose her nail.” And I didn’t. But kids become adults, and as an adult I needed to build a house. Either build a house or starve on the street.

First went up the support beams. I had to find my legs afterwards, but once up and steady, I put up the crossbeams, the wet wall, the works. I wasn’t bad at it. I lost my sense of proportion and taste when I painted the rooms gold, but when my nail brought them back, I quickly corrected to white walls.

But then I lost my nail. I barely missed it at first, but the sense of something wrong crept up to me in my new house, sans carpet. Sans carpet because I had yet to put it in. I looked to see what was missing: Heart, brain, eyes, breath. Check, check, check. Wits, spleen, my favorite coffee bean. Oh, check, check, checkity-check. Ears, teeth, that little cell that wants to be cancer: all there. Head, shoulders, knees, and… oh noes! Yes, there’s the missing bit! The sacred nail! Gone from the finger, not a trace left.

I searched, but there was nothing. Up and down my new house, and under it, and above it. I called to it. I said its name. And it wasn’t there.

This was panic. Maybe not panic like you’d guss, but panic lik whn you los… my lttrs. Crap. Okay. Don’t worry. Thr ar still twnty-fiv lttrs. And th missing on might b important but my nam Amanda dosn’t hold it important. Now if I lost… shit. Oky, I still hv most of my vowls nd ll th constnts. My poor nm. Mnd. You cn’t sy tht, oh wit. I found my E. It ws in the bsement. And my A too. But no nail.

There’s a horror to losing letters and not finding them again. Or your name. I had it. I just had it. I have all the letters for it, but without the nail, I can’t say what it was. I wandered around my house, wondering who I was, looking for my nail, my name, and any parts that might depart.

And then, there, in the rafters, was the nail. I grabbed it. Put it on. And there I was. Amanda.