My husband Henry, of capable hands, unbreakable back, and kindness soft as butter, now lies unpurposed in our bed. One leg is as strong as a mighty oak. The other, gone below the thigh. This bears the reminder that for years, he was blessed to return from work with a full complement of fingers and toes. The well of our luck ran dry, but I secretly promised Henry I’d fill it again.
Although Henry doesn’t know, I’ve saved almost enough for a false leg. We speak of this fantasy when he is not too groggy from the morphine. In these times of clarity, my love for him forms bone and muscle. I become his second leg in the reverie, strong as a redwood or a promise.
When Henry and I last held hands and walked together, I had few skills, save for the delicacies of needlework, piano, and keeping a proper home. When the rent was due, I learned quickly that a finely stitched sampler and pretty dresses don’t satisfy the landlord, stock the larder, or summon the physician.
I’ve cast aside shame. I have Henry’s false leg to consider. I haven’t decided whether making eye contact before lying with strangers says, “You have no power over me.” Does this aid me in holding power close to my breast so I can take their money with my head held high? My back is now as unbreakable as the promise I’ve made.
Tomorrow, I’ll cast my eyes downward. I’ll calculate whether looking at strangers boldly in the face or shielding my own face from theirs brings more strength to this endeavor. Maybe, I’ll try to determine which gaze strips less of it away.
Then, when I’m alone, I’ll envision the smoothness of Henry’s new false leg, and holding hands, and walking.