Updated: May 17, 2021
It took me all of a year to put the poison pill to your ear
But now I stand on honest ground, on honest ground
You want to fight for this love, but honey, you cannot wrestle a dove
So baby, it’s clear
They took my toe, but it hurt like they took my womanhood. After seeing my B-horror-movie stump of a right foot, I was sure Chris would never sleep with me again. And after all the best lovers in all my years who played my Muse via writing or painting, in four years I had not written him a poem yet.
When two artists get together and consummate something real, it is virtually expected that each creates works for one another; great opus possibly, but at the very least a few scattered poems or drawings. In my household, scrapbooks and backrub vouchers counted, too. Even my ex from the abusive relationship had yielded oil painting odes to my naked nineteen-year-old body. Yet Chris and I both created visual and verbal expressions but for some reason were incapable of making anything in the name of our love project.
I promised the Universe that if Chris ever left me, I would give up hope on Love and on the Universe, herself. The spark would be gone as well as the only security blanket that had ever ensconced me, the one that encouraged me to dance to Outkast in my panties, to sit comfortably and coy on a stranger’s couch and espouse my views regarding of Montreal and 20th century literature, the part that cared about garter belts and girlhood and fake nails and most importantly, the spark that allowed me to be me in my purest and most individual form. Chris gave me me and if he left that slice would leave, too.
When we met, I was a walking corpse fed on too many Klonopin and antipsychotics. I worked a nine to five blindly, considered imbibing art my only form of expression and an evening in with frozen food and Netflix a miracle. Vividness was a color long gone from my spectrum.
Luckily, Chris saw past the repeated attempts of slow anesthesia and the orange medication bottles, he even saw past the traumas and immaturity and Daddy issues. He was the first one in possession of the patience required to teach me how to love and to be loved. We were two Libra artist addict beautiful twin souls who knew the lyrics to the Kendrick and Elliott and Barnes lyrics, who kept each other in check with both stubbornness and competition on top of our love, and who had witnessed hand in hand enough of life’s stillbirths to know that neither love nor life comes cheap. Chris was sensitive enough to get me and I think he fell in love with every individual part of meat one time or another, as that is the kind of love we have. Like a long string of intermittent crushes with a foundation that feels almost incestual. And I had not even written him a poem. But he had never written me a song. So even though we had changed each other in beautiful and irrevocable ways, we had yet to spit on the topic of each other.
After I lost the first toe, I will never forget and will surely remember during my dying breath, Chris. Both hands behind me on my wheelchair, broad bearded, golden smile, fingers occasionally rubbing my shoulders or entangling my hair, even with me in that state he was never once embarrassed: I knew I was disabled, but with Chris I felt invincible.
In about two years, I have had at estimate at least one dozen surgeries on my right foot. Not fancy outpatient procedures or even conveniently planned operations, but full-blown, under anesthesia, emergency, must stay in the hospital a minimum of seven days-kinda surgeries, including the amputation of two toes and about one quarter of my foot. Each surgery or two required an inpatient stay made shorter only because I repeatedly voiced my concerns for my own mental health to anyone who would listen. Each event also involved a month or two of wound care and daily IV antibiotic therapy.
Meanwhile and for a month or two afterwards, I am bed bound and only meant to walk with assistance and to places like the pisser and the doctors. I am a baby and Chris is responsible for everything. I am a little dictator with a cell phone from my little at-home hospital bed, and Chris is responsible for everything.
Finally, there came a really expensive pro bono (and bless him for it) plastic surgeon to close wounds on top of my foot that refused to heal (wound rendered from keeping an Ace Bandage too tight one weekend, I had neuropathy and could not tell); he basically plopped thigh meat on top of foot meat and prayed that it would stick. It did. Until I moved to a cheaper Southern town with, you guessed it, lesser quality medical care, everything seemed fine: I could walk, my foot was not sexy ever again and I would never wear heels or cute shoes or even matching shoes, but I could walk. I was grateful for the ticket, the ride, and grateful for what I had learned about faith and humility and positive thinking. And I wanted to fucking move on.
Which brings me to now. I have just lost my big toe and more of my foot, and it finally hits a winning home run, a home plate, arriving at home base—it finally hits home that I am disabled, that Chris got me through it last time, our relationship possibly will not survive a second round, I cannot stop it, I cannot stop anything, not even the slow rotting of my own body.
And I cannot stop time. Time convinces me it must be male because it takes so much, even more than Death. My womanhood, in all its lilting catlike female intricacies, is now dancing with Time for the first time I have ever so intensely recognized. I was only twenty-five when I was diagnosed with diabetes yet almost fifteen years later, at this last brink between my thirties and forties, I have seen my first lines, sags and pains which scream to me that I really need to get my shit together before it hits the fan. I do not want to age like this. I am taking so many photographs to document this middle-to-end summer to put me beauty on paper. I have come to be grateful even for each menstrual cycle. Chris’ youth measures five years my junior, but he is a man, so he is just seemingly beginning his stint of revered handsomeness and sexuality, his prime, as I try to erect a dyke against Time and extend my leading-lady role.
But Chris’ smile is still golden and his arms still enrapt me in public to help me walk, and we are expressing together for the first time in years; I have been painting and writing and he has been playing guitar and recording and making those digital paintings he likes to make. We have phones that work, and our living space looks better than it has in a long time. We are still loving, glowing, doing, growing, and we might just make it to home base.
So, I guess this is your poem, baby.