I run my frail hand down the threadbare fabric trying to maintain possession of the meagre amount of warmth within my body. My fingertips gently slide down from the shoulder of my right arm, slipping and falling onto my lap at a point just above my elbow. I lift my hand back up to my right arm, I then trace my fingers around the stump of flesh, that used to be my forearm, in a repetitive circular motion representative of my stream of consciousness. Thinking. Thinking. Thinking.
There are two main factors of decision within my mind, circling around each other, one trying to beat the other, both pushing out other sympathetic thoughts, trapping them in cages and conquering my mind.
The buzz of sounds and words flying around me has become like a condensed melted aria of noise. I am able to pick out certain words but only from the people I care about, whose pitch resonate and trigger a flickering history of emotion.
“Beth, have you decided yet?“ “Yes!” I blurt out not even knowing who asked me. I look up and find that it is my mother asking. She recognizes that I haven’t been listening and understands. “Beth the doctors were asking if you were ready to put on the arm“ she says, her voice patient, loving, concerned and sweet. She has always spoken like this since my diagnosis.
I can feel one of the feelings ebbing its way down to my mouth and pushing itself, birthing itself from my lips desperate for reaction “uuh I guess” I answer . “Good,” one of the doctors answer, as he looms over me like a tetchy distant uncle wanting to get on with it. He leaves to collect the prosthetic, leaving me and my mother alone in the room.
We are in total silence. I can feel it creating a barrier or force pushing reality away. Mother breaks the silence, finally. Her voice cuts through the silence like a kitchen knife through butter. “Hey, don’t be sad, I mean, having one good arm and one false arm is better than having none, right? Think of it as the next best thing“
Her soft eyes remind me of when everything collapsed and crumbled and the room where ‘the news’ was delivered - a freezing cold nondescript hospital room with a whiff of antiseptic, hope and despair lingering in the air like a disconsolate cloud. It felt like something had hit me so hard that it just broke everything. Everything.
Mum came in looking like a pall bearer from a black and white film and told me that the arm had to come off. She looked at my bandage swabbed arm with hatred and all I said to her was the sooner the better.
The doctor comes back into the room carrying the prosthetic like a new born baby. “So, shall we try it on?” he asks . “Let’s do it “ I whisper.
Five minutes later a dull snap and click signal that the prosthetic is on and I can feel the camber of my body straightening with the counterbalance. My clumsy and uncoordinated movements remind me of the first steps of a newly-birthed fowl.
This is the first time in ages that I have experienced pure joy. It pours out of me like light, shows itself in every way possible, and then I realize that now I feel stronger more powerful than I have ever felt. I feel like I can take on the world and do anything, I feel complete.
Then it hits me. The next best thing isn’t having the arm, its starting a new chapter of my life with the arm. Because now I’m ready for the life outside of this room and my old self. As we walk out of the meeting room into the warmth I feel the old Beth and all her miserable emotions being snuffed out like a candle because now I have started a new brilliant chapter of my life. Now I am as unique as a fingerprint and as strong as a piece of steel forged at the anvil.
My left hand reaches up to my right arm but instead of my hand passing through the air and cupping the stump it bumps against the steel of the arm. I then tentatively move my fingertips in a circular motion down my new arm and down towards the hand. When the hands meet I clench them together and entwine the fingers, steel with flesh. I hold hope between these hands and absorb it into my system letting it spread everywhere and cleansing my soul, clearing out all the useless feelings.
There, that’s better. Not the next best thing, the best next stage in my life.