The Girl Who Cut Off Her Limbs
The studies reported that the people who were once able-bodied and then became paralyzed felt less happy than able-bodied people, less sad than able-bodied people…That feeling is completely rooted in your flesh.
—WNYC, Radio Lab, “Where Am I?”
The Unemotional Quadriplegic runs his phantom fingers through my hair.
I sigh at his shoulder. “There, there,” he says.
“Sometimes, when I sit next to a man I don’t know, I want to kiss him.”
“I understand,” he says, phantoms at my back, but I don’t think he does.
“One time I did. The man kissed back then wanted to buy me shoes.
That was the same night I followed a white-haired woman’s breaths
as she leaned against a signpost. I thought she might die.
She didn’t. So I kissed The Strange Man Who Wanted to Buy Me Shoes.
When we walked past The White-Haired Woman Who Didn’t Die
she asked if I had a cigarette and it seemed important to stop and say,
‘I don’t have a cigarette because I don’t smoke, but if I did I’d give it to you.’
Later, I found out The Strange Man Who Wanted to Buy Me Shoes had a cigarette.”
The Unemotional Quadriplegic nods, “there, there,” points to a drawer.
He wants me to open it. I’m not sure if I should, but I do.
Inside there’s a saw, bloodied at the ridge.
“There are ways to be like me,” he says. “Take the saw.”
I was there once, too—you forget—
without you. Wandered Kyoto
in a way you don’t call wandering
while my sister stayed inside
throwing up soup and rice.
I climbed a mini tea set street,
entered a temple that starts with a “k”
and found a stone-carved god
dressed in a winter cap.
The patron saint of unborn children,
It was just what I wanted.
Below the temple, people caught water
from a fountain, served it
with silver ladles. Sipped for luck.
I walked to them—I’m a sucker
for luck—but it cost 10 yen.
I walked back.
My sister was still sick and I was glad.
There’s something to being alone and foreign,
though I haven’t wanted that for a long time—
at least not the way you do,
the way you’ll spend days in Tokyo
searching for a sumo bowl of Ramen.
It tastes better when they can’t pronounce your name.
“I guess you can never know,” my grandpa says—here
a tremor breaks his lower lip—”Never really know
how much a man suffers.” I watch him waver,
no more than a second, and I steal it—his lip,
his voice, his tremble. Just as I steal the calendar
in my aunt’s home, the one lying open on the desk
filled with appointments that won’t be kept,
except for one, circled, underlined. And tonight
when it rains quiet rain along the roof, the window,
the street, I’ll take that too. Someone should.