Limb

by Stephanie on March 12, 2010

Moonlight creeps under the curtain and casts shadows on the wall of this room. Not light, but its echo. The air is thin and cold but I keep the window open anyway. I press my fingers up against the glass and watch the condensation push out from them. Tiny haloes of heat, and then they fade.

Winter ruptures my insides.

I am dragging this weight around with me, a lump of living flesh that won’t work the way it’s supposed to. Warm, soft, heavy and painful. Created in a moment of madness, like the complications of a kiss. A gasp, the quick paralysis of shock, hot tears and the crunch of bone against bitumen. Don’t watch where you’re going, girl. Tumble off head first.

I remember this girl. I’ve seen her before, half-blind and reeling, a cannonade inside her head. Is this pain or the memory of it? She’ll be back again the next night, back to the spot where she fell. She won’t be on her bike this time but still won’t look where she puts her feet. She knew before she started that it could be dangerous, but people only learn to take care after they fall, and recklessness makes her teeter.

I remember once, driving through an intersection alone late at night. A camera started flashing in the corner of my eye, through the window, bright slaps of white on my forearm gripping the wheel. My heart jumped, blood rushing to my head, and suddenly I couldn’t remember if the traffic light had been green or red, if I’d taken any notice at the time or been so caught up in the song playing, the momentum of the traffic and the smell of summer through the open windows. I kept driving, shaky, breathing quickly, left arm tingling with the memory of that flashing light, like it had stamped itself into my skin, an invisible scar.

Sometimes I think she knows she’s losing, as I watch her block me out with wine and noise, the light of a computer screen, or the hard, fleeting warmth of pills and potions. And all she wants me to do is put her in the car and drive, grip the wheel with both hands, and burn a straight line down the freeway, a straight line to wherever and ever. And I want to be able to do that too, but I have one arm bound across my chest now and it feels like paralysis, artificial inertia. Because I remember that girl; I remember how she felt back then. I remember her pleading with me, trying to convince me that it would be okay, that head first was the only way to fall. But she mistook arrogance for strength, ego for confidence, intelligence for understanding and intensity for passion. And in her moments of shock she listens when I speak. That voice that knows best—that voice in her head—pick yourself up, pick yourself up, you’re tougher than this, pick yourself up. And so we get back on the bike and ride home in the dark, whether from stubbornness or fear, it doesn’t matter. I know what to do, because I remember her curled up in the cold, I remember the smear of tears in the fine hairs of her arm—this arm, the dead weight, a limb and the light fantastic—so while she’s still numb I put a bullet in it, because I don’t want her to cry again.

Previous post:

Next post: