People like to ask me how I lost my arm. They usually ask in hushed tones, trailing off at the last few words as if sheltering me from the loss of my own limb. They gesture down at my stump, grimace a bit, and do their best to put on a sympathetic expression as I tell them all about it.
It’s actually a fun story to tell. I lived a perfectly ordinary life until one day in my early 20s, when I noticed a tiny spot on my forearm. A zit, maybe? A spider bite? I didn’t know. It was reddish with a slight purple tint, raised up just a little bit, but not all that distinguishable from the rest of my skin. It didn’t hurt or anything—it was just there.
It stayed that way for about a week, and it didn’t bug me at all. I did notice my arm getting weaker, though—I was a regular at the gym and found myself struggling to grip the weights with that hand, having that forearm get tired way before the other one, that kind of thing. But I never associated it with the little bump on my arm, the bump that was “just there.”
Then one morning I woke up to find the bump had grown during the night. Like, a lot. I’d never seen anything like it, and I regarded this new growth with something between panic and detached curiosity. It was now nearly six inches in diameter, raised significantly, and filled with a dark liquid of sorts. It looked almost black, far too dark to be blood, but I couldn’t tell for sure through the layer of blistered skin. It had spread up into the backside of my elbow. Clearly, it was no longer “just there.” But still, it wasn’t causing me any discomfort. My arm just felt weak—my left hand couldn’t even grip the steering wheel on my way to the hospital.
In my experience, medical professionals are just that—professional. They’ve been trained to react stoically to the most nauseating phenomena the human body has to offer. But when the doctor on call took a glance at the thing on my arm, he jerked his head forward to take a closer look, widened his eyes, and practically shouted, “Holy shit!”
I told him I didn’t know what it was. He told me he didn’t either. He brought in a few other doctors to take a look, and they were equally baffled. I could hear snippets of their mumbles to each other—…maybe a dermatologist…it’s the color that worries me…can’t rule out some kind of venom…—and they weren’t helping me feel any better. See, when I go to the doctor, I want him to know exactly what’s wrong with me; I want him to take one look at my arm and tell me the solution is clear, that I need to take this certain pill or make this specific dietary change or see a specialist a couple towns over. But I was not so lucky.
Since the thing bore a passable resemblance to a blister, the doctors eventually decided the best course of action would be to lance it. They all crowded around as the “Holy shit!” doctor did the honors. I merely sat, more than a little uncomfortable from being gawked at, feeling like a circus freak or a zoo animal. A bucket was placed under my arm, and I could do nothing but watch as a thin sterilized needle slid into the monstrosity that could have, until that morning, been confused with a small zit.
Nothing happened—the needle wasn’t very big and apparently the fluid inside was too viscous to come out a hole that small. But a much bigger needle did the trick. A rush of the stuff, all at once, begin to splash in the bottom of the bucket. It was dark and creamy and stank to high heaven. I suppressed a gag and looked away, wishing I could plug my ears to drown out the splattering sound it made as it spilled into the container.
I don’t know whether lancing the thing helped or hurt. All I know is that by the time I’d collected my prescriptions and driven home from the hospital, more of that nasty shit was starting to fill the empty bag of skin on my arm. I stopped in my house and grabbed a book, then drove right back to the hospital. I felt like I might be there a while.
I was right. By the time I walked out of that hospital twenty-two days later, I had read that entire book, as well as four others, not to mention watched three seasons of the X-Files. I’d also lost my arm.
They lanced the thing a few more times, but it always came back. And it got bigger—lots bigger. Eventually it covered my entire hand, wrist, forearm, and elbow. It was making its way up to my shoulder when the doctors decided drastic action was required. See, not only had it grown, but it was pulsating. My fingernails oozed the stuff 24/7. Once they finally fell off, it was just a steady drip, drip, drip from the tips of my fingers. All the muscles underneath were beginning to atrophy at a rate that alarmed the doctors. My arm was withering and swelling at the same time.
It was the effect on my muscles that worried the doctors most. They still had no idea what was happening, but at the rate it was spreading up my left arm, they worried it would soon reach my heart—another muscle it could leave withered in its wake. Finally, they proposed the amputation to me, and I readily agreed. Though I never experienced much pain, I was thoroughly unnerved by the degeneration of my arm, and figured getting rid of the whole thing would be the best way to prevent the condition from spreading to more vital areas of my body. We scheduled the amputation, and I remained under close watch and treatment from a myriad of specialists.
Now, this is the part of the story I don’t usually tell people. With most curious inquirers, I tell them that the doctor injected the anesthesia into my vein and the next thing I knew, I was in my hospital bed with Stumpy. These people are always both satisfied and unsatisfied with my story—it was more bizarre than they had imagined, but they were dying to know what had actually caused this strange condition. You and me both, I tell them. We exchange pleasantries and go about our lives.
But there’s more to this story, more than I ever let on when I tell people face to face. I don’t know why I feel like I can tell you, but I suspect the anonymity granted by the internet has something to do with it. I don’t have to see your worried faces, no look of polite skepticism masking what’s really going on in your head: this guy is fucking nuts. No, I can tell you the rest of my story and then close my laptop, immune to any social consequences that would result from a more personal encounter.
Here’s what happened next: when they injected the needle into my vein and I began to swim out of consciousness, I began to hear a drumbeat. Slow. Steady. Faint. I asked the doctor if he heard it too, but he just smirked lightly—patients are always saying funny things before they go to sleep, that look seemed to say. The drumbeat, deep and ominous, got louder and louder as I drifted away.
When I was asleep and on the operating table, I dreamt. But dreamt is a weak word, it doesn’t do this justice—it was more like a vision. In this vision, the drumbeat continued. I was surrounded by a large group of people, each of whom was plagued by the same malady that I had. They looked exhausted with agony, as though they’d suffered with the condition for hundreds or maybe thousands of years. Their eyes were downcast, their faces defeated. All were naked, and everything was enshrouded in a grey fog.
Some people had afflicted legs, others arms, others faces. Some people were entirely covered from head to foot. One woman cradled an infant in her diseased arms, and as I looked closer I saw that the child’s eyes were swollen and black with the stuff. A thin stream was slowly oozing down from its nostril. Another unfortunate, this one a watery-eyed young man around my age, was on his hands and knees, hacking and coughing, sticking his fingers down his throat and pulling out huge dark globs and flinging them miserably away. The entire scene was gruesome beyond belief. None of these people seemed aware of me, or of one another, in the least—each was trapped in his own personal hell.
I’m not sure how long I wandered through this crowd for. It felt like hours but it could have been seconds. I remained somehow detached from all my fellow sufferers, though, until the wound on my arm burst. It was like a faucet, splattering the vile substance at my feet. I backed away from the mess in disgust, glanced up, and found that everybody was staring at me. Their faces were twisted in a kind of jealous rage. A few of them charged at me, as if to attack, but before they reached me a jolt of pain much like electricity—sharp, sudden, final—coursed through my entire body. I awoke then, confused and one-armed, in my hospital bed.
Do you think I’m crazy yet? Well, that’s the normal part of my story.
A lot of people talk about amputation as though you’re losing a loved one. People miss their limbs, they realize they loved their limbs—hell, I was even offered free grief counseling. Actually, the first appointment, while I was still in the hospital, was mandatory. But it was stupid and I never went back.
See, once my diseased appendage was gone, I felt as though a huge weight was lifted from me. I’m not just talking about the 8.7 pounds that was my left arm—although it was a bit of a shock the first time I stepped on a scale post-Stumpy—it was deeper than that. I guess I didn’t realize it at the time, but as the condition of my arm deteriorated, so did the condition of my mind. I grew irritable, impatient, angry, yet it felt more external than the typical “woe-is-me” declination of long-term hospital patients. It felt as though these emotions were being forced on me—kind of like Frodo and the ring.
Geeky metaphors aside, it was truly a relief to have my arm gone, although the grisly condition never actually caused me much physical discomfort. In fact, I spent most of my time feeling tremendously grateful I’d only lost my left arm—I barely had to relearn how to do anything. I immediately embraced my new disability as part of my identity, and went about my life as normal.
I told you the normal part of my story. This is where it gets weird.
It was a winter day, a bit warmer than usual, a couple years after my operation. To this point, I’d had no problems with Stumpy, nor had I experienced the discomfort sometimes associated with phantom limbs. I did sometimes feel like my arm was still there, though, as many people do—and occasionally I thought I felt something brush up against it. I easily disregarded these instances, though, simply happy to avoid the common phantom pain.
On this particular day—I think it was near the end of last February—I was walking down the sidewalk on our town’s Main Street. It was lightly raining, and slush covered the concrete, seeping over the soles of my shoes and soaking through to my socks. I thought the feeling of wet socks was my least favorite in the world, until I experienced what happened next.
I felt two hands firmly grasp my wrist. My left wrist. I looked down at the air where that hand used to be, more bewildered than scared. I heard a horn blare, alarmingly close behind me. I whipped my head around, and saw a car, apparently spinning out of control and headed right toward me. But before I could react, before I could jump, I felt the hands on my wrist yank me hard. Easily hard enough to pull someone’s arm out of its socket, you know, if they actually had an arm. My body flew out of the vehicle’s trajectory and sprawled on the icy pavement as the car slammed into the wall of the barber shop I was walking past.
I lay there in disbelief. What the fuck just happened? The guy driving the car staggered out and vomited on the sidewalk, and a couple other bystanders rushed over to us.
“How did you get out of the way that fast?” one lady asked me. “You’re lucky to be”—she broke off in mid-sentence, staring in horror at my stump as though she thought I had lost my arm right then and there.
“Don’t worry, it happened a while ago,” I told her as I stood up and brushed myself off. But as I looked over at my shoulder, which was hurting quite badly from that pull, I realized she was staring at something that hadn’t happened a while ago. My stump—about six inches of upper arm—was in tatters. The surgical seams, long since scarred over, had split open. Blood spilled from the wound, and the rounded off piece of arm bone that remained was protruding loosely from the end, detached from its socket.
The last thing I heard before I fainted was the woman’s scream.
I went through a lot of complicated medical procedures to put my arm back together, which kept me in the hospital for another two miserable weeks. All the specialists who attended to me during my original stay visited to wish me well, but well was the last thing I felt.
The doctors, who initially assumed the vehicle had struck me, were utterly baffled by my injury as they learned more. I had a few scrapes from where I hit the ground but otherwise bore no sign of being hit by a car. Not to mention, there was my testimony, the testimony of the driver (still somewhat valuable despite his inebriated condition), and those of several eyewitnesses claiming that I had not been hit at all, but had jumped out of the way. The dislocation was what confused the doctors the most—they’d never seen an amputated limb, especially one that short, come out of its socket.
“I don’t know how to explain it,” one of them told me. “Quite simply, the force required to pull a bone this short from a socket that strong…hell, I’d have been surprised even if that car had hit you. Do you have any idea how this happened? Any idea what…what yanked your arm out of place?”
I didn’t want him to think I was crazy—or worse, to sign me up for more grief counseling sessions—so I didn’t tell him what I’d felt. I didn’t tell him I would have bet my other arm that something had grabbed me, grabbed me by the wrist that I no longer have, and pulled me to safety. I simply told him I had no idea what really happened, which was god’s honest truth.
I did my best not to talk to people at the hospital. I was grateful to be alive, to be sure, but so thoroughly unnerved by what had happened that I could hardly think of anything else. Suddenly, those feelings of something brushing up against my phantom limb became a lot more interesting. And a bit sinister, if I’m being honest. I was totally freaked. Yeah, whatever had pulled on my arm had saved my life, but I still had to deal with the fact that something had pulled on my arm even though my arm didn’t fucking exist. Maybe that counseling wasn’t such a bad idea after all.
Questions plagued and burdened my mind, not the least of which was a strong suspicion that I was crazy. But there were more. Whose hands had grabbed my wrist? Where was this person? Did my arm still, in some way, in some dimension, exist as part of me? I found myself thinking more and more of the vision I’d had on the operating table, and of all my fellow sufferers meandering around that mysterious place, people who looked as though they’d borne that malady for a terribly long time.
These thoughts built and built, and the burden grew greater, but it wasn’t until my last night in the hospital that my mind finally snapped. On this night, I lay in my bed, staring out the small window of my room and gazing at the clear and starry sky. I began to drift off when I felt a tapping, slow and rhythmic, on the back of my hand. Yeah—that hand. I began to hear the slow and steady drumbeat, the one from my vision, again in that room. Keeping time with the tapping on my hand. I closed my eyes in horror and shook my head, trying to will the delusion from my mind. But I couldn’t, because it was no delusion.
Eventually, the tapping stopped, and a pair of hands—a woman’s hands, I thought—took my wrist gently. I tried to yank my hand away by swinging my shoulder back, but the hands gripped tighter. Once I stopped struggling, I felt one of the hands let go. A finger touched the back of my hand and traced something. The letter U, it felt like. A pause, and then another letter. R. UR? U R? You are? As I struggled to wrap my head around these proceedings, seven more letters were traced on my hand, each bringing another piece of a dawning, horrible realization.
That was more than I could take. I screamed and screamed and screamed. And when the nurses burst into my room to see what was the matter, I screamed and screamed some more.
It took a few days to convince the hospital to let me out—they thought I was mentally unstable. In fairness to them, they were perhaps right. I had lost my shit when the events of the last post transpired. The occasional brush on my nonexistent hand I could take, even the tapping could have been chalked up to a weird nerve phenomena, but there was no alternative explanation to be found for what those hands traced on my own. Either I was crazy—and I didn’t feel crazy, though I doubt many crazy people do—or there was some conscious being, a being with human hands, who had not only pulled me by my phantom limb to safety but had then, using that same limb, sent me a polite message.
I spent the next couple weeks in a haze, living a very indeliberate life, just rolling through the days and doing my best to ignore the unanswered questions and the vague suspicions and, of course, the occasional and mysterious brushes against my hand.
But when the drumbeat started again, waking me up in the middle of the night, and the tapping resumed, I could no longer ignore anything. I was nothing short of terrified. Helplessly, I sat and trembled as fingers traced once more on the back of my hand. It—whatever it was—was delivering me another message, a much longer one this time. I closed my eyes in focus. A set of directions. To do what?
“What the fuck?!” I gasped when the tracing of the message was complete. I couldn’t do what I’d just been told. I ran the risk of serious injury or even death—to say nothing of having to explain it to the doctors.
But then my mind traveled back to the events of the previous month. This thing—whatever it was—had saved my life. There was no question about it, no ambiguities to the situation. I owed my every breath to whatever had yanked me out of the path of that car. And then, of course, there was its first message: U R WELCOME. Creepy as hell, yes, but also…friendly? I couldn’t know for sure, but nothing had so far happened to indicate this being did not have my best interests at heart.
Still, the instructions I’d been given…I failed to see how they could be of any help to me. Why would I need to reopen my wound? Perhaps my stump was becoming infected, and I needed to relieve the pressure or I’d die? But that still didn’t explain why I was ordered to save my blood. I sat up in bed for a moment, drenched in sweat and surrounded by darkness, deliberating over what I should do.
Apparently, I took too long. The hands grabbed my wrist again, harder this time. Three letters were traced on my hand in broad, sweeping, almost angry strokes.
Then a single line, and underneath it a lone and forceful tap. An exclamation point.
That final message worked. Whatever the situation was, I felt it to be sufficiently urgent. I scrambled out of bed and made my way toward the kitchen, where I grabbed a medium-sized Tupperware container and placed it on the counter. Using the smallest pair of scissors I had, I sliced easily through the stitching on my arm. As I pulled the thread from its holes, a few drops of blood dripped out, but the wound was mostly scarred over.
I knew what had to be done next. I took a deep breath and, with a sharp kitchen knife, began to carve along the healing surgical seam. It felt unpleasant, to say the least, but I made no sound. I held my stump over the Tupperware, letting the blood dribble into the plastic for a while. Once the container was nearly full, though, I realized I had no way of stopping the blood flow, which was quickly getting out of control. In panic, I slammed a lid onto the container and watched helplessly as blood—perhaps a bit darker than usual—spilled onto my counter, the floor, everywhere I went. Finally, I grabbed a bath towel and managed to wrap it firmly around my stump, tying it off at the end.
Suddenly, it became clear why my instructions included seeing a doctor. Carrying the Tupperware full of blood in my only hand and wearing my keys around my neck, I hurried to my car, ignoring the bitter nighttime air despite having no jacket, and drove to the hospital in a state of half-delirium.
When I reached the front desk of the emergency room I held the Tupperware casually near my waist. The rest of me was such a spectacle, and the E.R. so crowded and bustling, that nobody even noticed it. I checked in, a bit pale from loss of blood, and the urgency of the situation was not lost on the receptionist. She directed that I go straight to the office of the doctor in charge of my case. I walked through the halls of the hospital quickly and with purpose, but as I made to turn right down the corridor with my doctor’s office, I felt another painful tug on my arm—not hard enough to rip my arm out of its socket again, thank God, but hard enough to get me to turn down another hall. And another. And another. I had no idea where in the hospital I was nor why I was supposed to be there.
The tugs finally led me into an empty hallway. They turned me toward a door and then stopped. This was it. I didn’t know what I was doing here but was nonetheless burdened with a sickly feeling of guilt. I glanced discreetly down both ends of the hallway, checking for hospital personnel. Nobody. Head swimming, exhausted, I reluctantly reached for the doorknob and snuck inside. The room was mostly empty, save for a small surgical table holding several bottles full of blood. I looked at the bottles. Then at the Tupperware still clutched in my one hand. A dawning realization swept over me.
“No,” I said aloud. “No, I can’t.”
It was less than two weeks later that the doctor called me. I knew it was only a matter of time before I heard something.
“How are you?” he asked me.
“I’m fine. Everything seems to be, you know, healing like it should.”
“Have you…” he paused, concern in his voice yet unsure how he should word this next part. I knew it was coming. Taken out your stitches like a dumbass? Cut yourself again? “…had another episode?” Good choice, I thought. Tactful.
“No, everything’s normal,” I replied.
“Good. Ah—listen. I’m calling to let you know something. We’ve had a few patients recently contract symptoms that are quite similar to what you had on your arm. As you know, all the tests we ran on you were inconclusive, but we’re at a loss. We don’t want to be chopping limbs off all over the place, you understand?”
I was silent.
“Anyway, I’m calling because I hoped you’d do me a favor and come back to the hospital. We’d like to investigate a little further.”
I found I could barely speak. “In-in…investigate?” I asked feebly. I imagined sitting in a dimly lit room, bleak concrete walls surrounding me and the detective sitting across the table. He’d wave a security tape in my face, maybe ask me where I was at roughly 3:00 in the morning last Wednesday, a shit-eating grin on his face.
“Yes, run some blood tests, brain scans, anything to help us understand what happened to you physically and how you’ve essentially been able to make a full recovery. It’s a long shot, but…frankly, we’re desperate. We’ve never seen anything like this, so we’re dealing with uncharted waters here.”
I agreed to come in the next day.
That night, the drumbeat sounded once more. The tracing on my hand began. I was implored to “DO IT AGAIN.” I was wracked with guilt over poisoning the hospital’s blood, over afflicting innocent people with this terrible malady, yet my thoughts at this moment were not with them. No, they were with the people in my vision—the miserable wretches, scabbed and scarred and covered in the most vile substance imaginable—because I felt that even though my arm was gone, I was still somehow and in some way a part of them. The feeling made my blood run cold.
So I spoke aloud, perhaps to my own psychotic mind but also perhaps to an actual being, invisible and undetectable yet completely and undeniably real.
“You know what? I’m not going to do it. I’m not. I’m done.”
I closed my eyes and listened carefully—for what, I’m not sure. For anything. Some angry reprisal. Maybe even some malicious torturing of my phantom limb. But there was nothing. Only silence. Somehow, that felt like the worst response of all.
I stood on my balcony, drinking a mug of tea, looking out over the sunrise. The morning air chilled me but I wore no jacket, no sweats—I let it wash over me. Invigorate me. Even if I’d had another arm, I wouldn’t have hugged myself with it. I peered over the edge of my balcony to the grass below, covered in frost, and smiled a bit. I had an appointment at the hospital later that day, but for now, I could relax. It was mornings like these I was glad I lived on the fourth floor of my condominium complex—the view from the lower floors just wasn’t quite as good.
I’d recently done a terrible thing, one which caused many innocent people to suffer, and I’d been plagued by immense guilt of late. But on this morning, I felt happy and alive. More than alive—I felt free. You see, the night before, I’d put my foot down. I’d said those two liberating words: “I’m done.” Those words fit well many situations, and mine was no different. I’m done harming people’s lives. I’m done hurting myself. I’m done living in fear.
I initially feared some sort of reprisal for my belligerence, but there was none. Perhaps whatever had been pulling on my phantom limb had moved on to a less stubborn amputee? Perhaps it couldn’t hear me speak? Perhaps—this was the worst possibility of them all—I was just crazy?
I stood for a while, the cold, hard wood of the balcony numbing my bare feet, a light steam exuding from the remains of my tea. Finally, I decided to go inside and get ready for the day. I turned around and pulled open my screen door. I had one foot inside when—
It all happened so quickly. The hands closing around my wrist. Both of them, yanking hard on my arm that wasn’t there. My feet leaving the floor. I sailed over the edge of the balcony.
My leg clipped the railing as I flew, so I tumbled end over end all the way to the grassy yard below. I could barely even formulate a thought through all the panic, but I do remember a vague, primal instinct, mid-fall: please don’t land on my head.
I didn’t. I straightened my legs at the last moment and my heels slammed into the frozen ground. A dazzling pain shot up through my body and into my lower back. My ass made contact next, and I actually felt my tailbone crack. I
lay in the frost for a moment in a haze of agony.
I didn’t move until I heard someone running across the yard to me. An elderly woman’s voice pierced my ears: “Oh! Oh! Oh my God, what have you done?”
Dazed, I propped myself up on my arm and turned in her direction. I recognized her from the building next to mine. She was always walking that hideous cat around—and sure enough, the ugly little fuzzball was cradled in her arms as she ran gamely toward me. When she saw that I was conscious, her expression changed from horror to anger.
“You…you…” she sputtered, eyes wide with shock. I had a brief flash of déjà vu, and I looked down at my stump to make sure everything was all still intact. Thankfully, this time, it was. Finally, the woman regained her voice. “How could you be so selfish?!”
I looked at her in puzzlement, then realized with sudden clarity that she thought I had been attempting suicide. The panic had begun to wear off, my heartrate returning to normal, and the sheer absurdity of the situation was simply too much at this point. I couldn’t help it. I started to laugh.
“Lady, if I wanted to off myself, I’d do it off something a little higher,” I said, though as I lay on my back staring up at the bottom of the 4th floor balcony, it seemed very high indeed.
Pain was beginning to flood intently through my legs, and as I pressed one heel gently into the ground, I realized that I would be going to the hospital a few hours earlier than expected. I reached out my hand. “Ma’am, could you help me up?” I asked. “I don’t know if I can walk.”
She recoiled from me as if I were the devil incarnate. The ugly cat hissed. She turned on her heels and marched away from me with her nose figuratively in the air.
“Fuck,” I muttered. I had no idea how I was going to get up, and the ground was freezing. Shivering, I began to wish I’d dressed a little warmer on the balcony. I checked my pocket, on the off chance I had my cell phone with me. Nope.
I lay for a while with my eyes closed, struggling to clear my head. Then one thought surfaced that probably should have surfaced sooner: it just tried to kill me. There had been no danger awaiting me in my home, no speeding car careening toward me. It had deliberately pulled me from safety and flung me—I did the math in my head—roughly 40 feet off a ledge. I wouldn’t have attempted suicide from that height, true, but that kind of a fall can still do some serious damage.
I feared it had. I winced as I tried to move my legs. I would not be able to stand or walk on my own—hell, I may not be able to stand or walk at all. And as I rubbed my sore shoulder, luckily still in its place, I wondered: even when I can get up…what happens then?
Eventually, a less judgmental neighbor stumbled across me, shivering and weeping on the lawn, and called an ambulance. I was brought to the hospital where it was discovered I had a fractured heel, a split kneecap, a broken tailbone, and a sprained shoulder. I wasn’t able to walk for weeks.
But our bodies are amazing things. I can’t regenerate my arm, of course—biology did not endow me with that particular gift. My shoulder healed, though, and so did my tailbone and my legs. The bruises on both heels faded in time. You’d think my life would be back to normal.
I try and make it that way, but it’s hard when every waking moment is consumed by fear. You see, the night I was thrown over the balcony, as I lay in yet another hospital bed, the drumbeat began once again. The painkillers were intense and my body felt like it was floating, but my mind was clear. The tapping started, slow and rhythmic, keeping time with the pounding in my ears. I could feel the woman’s hands sliding over my wrists.
My face twisted in rage. “Why didn’t you just kill me?” I wept.
There was a pause. Then, her fingers began to trace:
It’s been a while now, and I’m still alive. But I feel like I’m living on borrowed time. Will I be tossed off this bridge? Will I be hurled in front of that moving car? Will I be thrown against that sharp thing sticking out of the wall across the room? I’m stuck between wanting to savor every waking moment and living each of those moments in paralyzing fear.
A couple of weeks ago, I got a phone call. The voice on the other end was trembling.
“Hey, man. You don’t know me, but my name is Josh Baker. I recently had my foot amputated at Jive Memorial Hospital. I had what you had.”
For a moment I couldn’t speak. When my mouth finally started working, I simply asked, “How did you get my number?”
“I looked you up, man. Sorry, I know that’s creepy. But listen, I’m having some, like, I don’t know how to put this, really weird shit going on with my foot. Like, phantom limb type stuff, you know?”
I was silent.
“I just think—I don’t know man, like, I’m freaking out. Did you ever see weird things? Hallucinations and shit? You know, when you had the—”
I hung up, shaking. I could do nothing but sulk in guilt for the rest of the day. I did this to him.
I once felt liberated with those two simple words: “I’m done.” But now, I can’t help but feel like they were sadly prophetic. I am done—done having a normal life, done feeling content, done experiencing peace. I don’t know how, and I don’t know when, but I’m going to die, and that makes me afraid to live.
Maybe I’ll be around for a while, and I’ll post again down the road. Then again, maybe I won’t. I don’t know.
It’s the not knowing that’s the worst part.