You told me in Topeka there is no Zen.
Just cornfields, people protesting gays.
A winter that should’ve gone a while ago.
Here’s the poetry you didn’t know:
“Once I built a snowman on the edge of the pond,
And loved him so much I nearly gave him my scarf,
But I am poor and cold.
No one knocked him down,”
you said. “I kept driving by, but no one did.
So there’s hope.”
I recorded you saying that.
Call me and I’ll play it back.
Aa: Basaltic lava forming very rough jagged masses with a light frothy texture. A useful word in the couple’s Scrabble games. First played during a blackout under candlelight. Flirtatious arguments and a bluff to check Webster’s. Also ate a couple pints of Ben & Jerry’s. Realized they were more than lovers.
Aestivation: One of J’s favorite words. It suggested the lazy energy of a summer (aestus) afternoon, with ice cracking in a lemonade glass just as R was about to peal off her orange bikini. Or so he preferred to make the word connote. He always sat at the edge of the pool, his right leg dangling musculature in the refracting waters, the other one like a multi-jointed tumor, the spiny-haired appendage of a locust. Standing at the edge was unnecessary, and sitting was best. She’d joined him at the edge at his right side.
Amputation: Removal of a body extremity by trauma, prolonged constriction, or surgery. As a surgical measure, it is used to control pain or a disease process in the affected limb, such as malignancy or gangrene, or to remove a foreign object—oftentimes the left leg in male patients in cases involving BIID (90% of them?). Not considered an activity that one chooses.
Amputee identity disorder: See BIID (body integrity identity disorder)
Apotemnophilia: Sexual arousal based on the image or fantasy of one’s self as an amputee. J did not suffer from this, though the couple gradually rewired to pick up on certain cues, the way that we learn that removing clothes may mean sex, that short bursts of snickering laughter mean anxiety, that shit stinks.
Balderdash: An example of a word that ought to be used more often. Throwback language charmed R. That it charmed her charmed him.
BIID (body integrity identity disorder): Also referred to as amputee identity disorder. Advocates have disputed that this is a true disorder, no different than so-called gender identity disorder, which should have been eliminated from DSM long before 2012. R coined the term “body integrity reimaging” (BIR). The coinage was a precious gift one cannot buy.
Cancer: It wasn’t that, but still they had to scrape for money for the doctor.
Crutches: The strange thing about them was the fact that, when he broke the appropriate foot in 7th grade and received his first pair, he was never happier. He didn’t know how to express that to anyone. With the body he was born with, its current usage was itself a crutch.
Disclosure: The act of revealing. In chess, the movement of one piece to enact another piece. In relationships, the moment of vulnerability, where what is disclosed can move you forward or set you back. The action itself is self-acceptance and a challenge to the one who now knows.
Dreaming: Plays an important role in R’s poetry and, just as important, J’s belief that through lucid dreaming he could heal the body. His body. Loose evidence can be read in Stephen LaBerge’s works. All speculative but still inspiring. In one particular dream J is running in a marathon down Orange Grove Blvd. Every time a mile marker is met, a tarsal or minor projection of the body disembarks onto the pavement like a shuttle’s little payload. He looks up and witnesses other runners with the same bodily events. A pinky at the first mile, an arm at 10K, a leg at 20K. Soon he is a quadruple amputee on a skateboard coasting down to the finish line. He thinks it is too much but feels the burden leave him, and you are just the breeze is the line he wakes with.
Empath: A notion first developed by his ex-girlfriend L, a paralegal in London now, whom he had met in early college along with his to-be wife, R, who, while no empath, developed a negative capacity to jump into anyone’s perspective at a moment’s notice. L believed that she could read empaths with her energy, and that once in Danae Park she “read” a homeless man whom she believed to be a powerful empath. L felt bad that she had the social positivistic thought that a deeply emotive and intelligent human would have a “commensurate income and respect” in society and thus some kind of shelter and job. L was good at catching her prejudices, which J loved about her. The couple was good to each other, if not for each other. Always good to each other.
Father: There were two, his therapist taught him. One inside J’s head and the other outside. The latter seemed impossible, and the former seemed within reach, making the latter more possible and perhaps ironically less relevant. Mind over matter, mind over father, mind over binary, he once wrote, and R once read and repeated this to him at the right moments.
Gender: A fluid topic reified by powers from an early age. Those powers were a vast network, like a power grid, perhaps without agency or agents.
Hands: Hers were those of a pianist, long and pale, and when he slept she hovered them over his torso and imagined that chi existed. It didn’t, she thought, but I can only imagine things in molecules.
Holes: The night before the operation—it barely seems a dream—they were about to make love. The sun was setting and piercing through the latticed old windows of their home. The orange beams caught dust shadows. R removed her shirt and revealed the scar from shrapnel that pierced hot through her years ago when a deranged gunman came into her shop. The wound was real in real life, but its dream double was fresh and bloodless and painless. J weirdly wiggles his finger through it, eyeing her as they laugh. Then he undoes his shirt with quiet ceremony, revealing large holes in his torso: one at the heart, one at the solar plexus. The orange light channels through him, two Venn circles merging on the white sliding closet door. When he enters her, he says we are waves. She wakes and that line reverberates through her. See also: Perfect. Separation.
Integrity: 1. The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness. 2. The state of being whole and undivided: “territorial integrity.” And thus BIID was an absolute misnomer: The “ID” was to be severed from the “BI,” he wrote in his journal. She later wrote a playful poem citing Freud, bisexuality, binary thinking, binary coding, binaural dream induction; body integrity and an identity that was well ordered. She knew him like no other and made this knowledge vestal fire.
INTP: That is I (80%), N (105%), T (50%) AND P(90%): That is to say, J was relatively convinced that he was absolutely 50/50 Thinker and Feeler, though at heart he felt a Thinker.
KLM: Royal Dutch Airlines wasn’t the cheapest flight to Antwerp, but she felt they deserved a comfortable trip for their “fucked-up, tell-no-one-yet mecca.” The operation would cost some €20,000. Doc came recommended from others on the “BIR” message boards.
LaBerge, Stephen: The forerunner of the lucid dreaming community. A nasal-voiced baby boomer who primarily gives lectures in Hawaii to wealthy oneironauts who no longer drop acid, so J imagined. Works by said author inspired J to imagine a body through the cultivation of active “I am aware that I am dreaming” dream states, and to engage in unspeakable adventures and compassionate Tonglen. And to see a transformation he would possibly not be able to afford.
Left: J was left-handed, a leftist artist. His specialty was designing maglev tables that utilized neodymium to make the light blocks of the table apparently float, rending the work gorgeous, albeit useless. Right, however, was always the preferred side. See also: Integrity
Love: J always considered it a new-agey cop-out to say that “love is a verb.” But he conceded that its properties as a noun were impossible, like trying to isolate the location of electrons. So it would have to be a verb. R never broke down the parts of speech of love, shrugging at him when he spoke like this. And making fun of him.
Marriage: An institution of property exchange, followed as an institution confirming delusions of romantic love for a select, heteronormative, apparent majority, followed as an institution open to all—albeit no less unnecessary. A contractually useful milestone if children are involved.
Perfect: Early 15c. alteration of Middle English parfit (c. 1300), from Old French parfit “finished, completed, ready” (11c.), from Latin perfectus, “completed, excellent, accomplished, exquisite,” past participle of perficere, “accomplish, finish, complete,” from per– “completely” + facere “to perform” (see factitious). Often used in English as an intensive (perfect stranger, etc.). “to bring to full development,” late 14c., parfiten. The evolution of all language was far from perfect. Related: 21c. Southern California couple who was bringing half of them to full development. Completion. The two of them thought of “per” and “factus” in half-remembered Latin and thought of “made through [and through…].” She would call for a wheelchair to greet them at the gate, their portal to per-fectus. It would be their last “unnecessary wheelchair.” See also: Holes
Separation: He is in the operating room. She has barely shut her eyes, and the REM coaxes her with hallucinations every time she wakes. A nurse, no one she has seen before, comes over with chamomile tea, and they talk about nothing useful, and therefore the talk is absolutely comforting. The Dutch speak such good English, is all R can think, her eyes watery if not outright watering over discussions of French pastries. The nurse presses the pressure point between R’s thumb and index, assuring her that all will be well. It is nothing but the thoughtful intention and heat exchange that calms the patient’s lonely wife.
Whilst: Whilst the doctor finishes the stapling, the massive sutures, and whilst the anaesthesiologist measures the elevator of unconsciouness of the transformed patient, R dreams herself an amputated young woman in a Sonoran desert. A man from nowhere arrives and plucks his left leg from his body and hands it to her. Then he takes her place in the wheelchair, and she his place at times. They roll off into the sunset. Dawn will see them
The smell of the firewood, if you’re lucky,
is heartbreak, along with the crickets:
their meditative, metronomic legs
rub out a better tune than BB King
for lovemaking, about as good as a good friend
backing your funny solos with the bass,
steadying you when love’s gone missing.
Hasn’t shown up for rehearsals, so to speak.
They’re the harbingers of peace, or sorrow, the coming of stillness.
They are the beat of the heart of the world,
who play sympathy’s timpani.
They’re the well of melancholic calling,
the jembe tapping our jealous stories,
the tabla of the tilting ear,
who hear without having to hear.
That go with and go on with and without you.
They are the ones who kiss your forehead that night.