The story behind one of my most recent flubs in judgment, which led to me punching my right hand through the glass paneling of a door, isn’t quite as sexy as the story that came after said flub in judgment. Suffice it to say, I was left with two deep, blood-gushing lacerations, necessitating a visit to UNC Hospitals’ outpatient orthopedic surgery clinic and, a day later, an “operative fixation of multiple extensor tendons.” Basically, I couldn’t move my mangled hand so well, and I’d need extensive physical therapy.

After a week, two of the tendonsnamely, those controlling my index finger ruptured again, and I went back for a second surgery. This time, I was assigned to UNC Hospitals’ hand therapy clinic for post-operative rehab. And that’s when I met Tiffany.

If ever there were a TV channel dedicated solely to occupational therapy, Tiffany would take one of its daytime slots. She would host Hand Hour, and I would serve as one of her references. Tiffany, whose name has been changed to protect her ostensible innocence, is rosy. She puts her hair in a ponytail when I walk through the door. She draws tiny hand diagrams at the top of my progress notes sheet to illustrate the difference between a PIP and DIP joint. She’s been to the International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque. She describes those spaces between my knuckles as “valleys.” She cheers when I make my thumb and middle finger touch.

I’ve developed a masochistic dedication to my therapy appointments, showing up to all of them and giving Tiffany my very best effort. Yes, she mashes and presses on my ballooned hand in very painful ways, but she’s fixing me. It hurts, and I like it.

But three weeks into hand therapy, our relationship changed. “Do you own an electronic toothbrush?” Tiffany asked. I told her I didn’t, suddenly self-concious of my yellowing smile and puzzled as to why we were discussing dental hygiene instead of hand therapy. From her near-infinite selection of occupational therapy tools, she pulled a mini-massage pen, made by Hitachi and the size of a jumbo highlighter. She gently applied it to my scarred areas. “This will help some of those neurons wake up and get your sensitivity back to normal,” she said. An electronic toothbrush would do the same trick, she assured me. I told her I’d find another device for the job.

I’ve treated my partner’s vibrator as an interloper from the day that I learned that she owned one. It is the pink, battery-powered phallus in the bedroom drawer or on the windowsill, plotting for acceptance and employment in our love life. She’s always been an advocate for the toy. I have shunned it. But now, twice a day, it becomes my makeshift Hitachi mini-massager pen. Tiffany would be appalled.

I carry the vibrator in my laptop bag. It accompanied me on a recent vacation. I have used it at my mother’s house. When I’m feeling particularly vulnerablesitting among other patrons outside of Carrboro’s Weaver Street Market, for instanceI pretend that it’s my very own therapeutic light saber as it buzzes my tendons. I am the man with the vibrating dildo on his hand.

At least this way, everyone is happyme for my returning sensation, Tiffany for her patient, and my partner for the fact that I’ve now embraced our vibrator.
Even if it is to give myself a handjob.