Post Op

    Greg sat in the recliner staring through the television. He leaned forward with his hands clasped on his knees and scrunched his lips. The clock moved like a subway, making a couple minutes of progress slowly, then stopping and pausing. Each stop brought another knot to the muscles around his shoulder blades. Lydia would be there any minute. He still felt bad that she insisted on taking a cab over rather than letting him pick her up, but he couldn’t really blame her, given the recent circumstances. He fidgeted with his watch, holding the shiny sides while rotating his wrist back and forth. He looked out the window and through the gracefully descending snow to the blackened road. Car headlights illuminated through the winter haze, pulling up to the curb, and he could see a cabbie getting out and walking around to open the back door. Nausea rose in Greg’s throat; he prayed it would soon turn into relief.

A slender figure in a long black coat emerged from the cab; she looked delicate, peaceful, her pale face emphasized by the street lights. Greg had seen Lydia almost every day he was allowed since the accident, by her side while she laid unconscious in bed, talking to her. He knew there would be no response, yet he hoped for something, a smile even. But since her procedure, and then being released, it had been a few weeks. He had been told it’d be best to let her heal on her own for a bit. Greg kept repeating a mantra in his head, don’t stare, act normal, remind her you still love her and are here for her. He could not decide whether he should apologize out right, or if that would make things worse.

She was almost at the door now, he could see her winter hat tipped slightly sideways with her brown pixie haircut under it, and her uniquely long and narrow nose. He stood up and approached the door, trying to manage the chills that swirled around those knots in his back, and reached for the door knob, but pausing, waiting for a knock. A flat slow beat of three taps came from outside. They sounded lifeless, only partially willing to be made. Greg sighed and took a few exaggerated yet slow steps to the door, and felt a slight rush of adrenaline spark up his forearm as he twisted the knob and pulled it open in a sweeping motion.

Lydia was smiling weakly with her coat buttoned up tighter than her shoulders looked. At first, Greg just focused on her face, her innocent eyes that reminded him of the first time they kissed. A smile came as he felt his chest relax.

“Hi…” Lydia said, shifting her feet.

“Hey,” Greg replied before breathing out, taking a step forward and embracing her around her hips. He gave her a large kiss on the cheek and whispered, “I’m so happy to see you right now.”

Lydia finally breathed as well, “You too.”

The two stood for a minute silently, oblivious of the snow falling around them. Greg let his mind go blank to allow himself to enjoy the moment. He rubbed her back with his hands before moving them upwards towards her shoulders. His hand moved up the right side of her body, through the armpit and met a small stump that only extended about an inch from the body. He quickly drew back his hand and snapped his eyes to the lump.

“Ah, ah, I’m sorry,” he stammered.

Lydia looked down, “It’s okay…it doesn’t really hurt anymore…it’s just a little sensitive…”

He couldn’t really tell with her winter coat on that her arm was gone, he noticed that the right sleeve was limp and narrow. He stared for a moment, then let his eyes rapidly scan around the yard before finally inviting her in, guiding with his hand on the side of the body still armed.

That night, Greg took Lydia out to dinner. They went to Di Gusto, their favorite Italian restaurant in town. It had a comfortable ambiance to it, very familiar, red brick walls.

“You know…I don’t blame you for what happened…at all,” Lydia said to break the silence.

He sat quietly for a moment, rolling a meatball with his fork before he responded. “I know…I just…I don’t know.” He remembered that night he had been driving, and it wasn’t like some movie, where the fog was rolling against a pitch black sky, or the road was sleek from fresh rain. It was how life can be, simple, fast and devastating. He got cut off by a Grand Prix, swerved to avoid it, and in the process collided the right front end of the car into an SUV. He was unscathed, the driver of the SUV had a couple bruises on his legs, but was fine also…only one person had been injured, Lydia. No matter what he or anyone told him, he couldn’t help but feel responsible, like it was the fates forcing it upon him.  Now he sat across from her, still loving her but feeling distant…like he no longer deserved her.

“What are you thinking about?” Lydia asked after another moment of silence.

Greg stopped looking around the restaurant to see if people were staring, “Not much…work…shit.” Lydia’s eyes didn’t move. Greg looked back down, “This pasta isn’t as good as usual.”

“You can have some of mine…it’s all right,” Lydia said. Greg wished the waiter would come back to break the tension.

“How’s your therapy going?” Greg finally asked.

“It’s good…I’m making decent progress…I don’t know…I don’t really feel like talking about it right now.”

“Oh okay…I understand.”

At home, he stood shirtless, staring back at himself in the full-length mirror in his bedroom. He briefly gazed over his pale, yet chisled body before fixing his eyes on his left arm. He studied it in a daze, its wholeness, its existence, a concept he had never bothered to think about before. Most people don’t think about their arm unless suddenly faced with the prospect of its vanishing. He rubbed it firmly with his opposite hand, cupping the tricep muscle, then moving up to the shoulder, where he rested his chin to the side on his hand and stood there thinking.

When Lydia arrived two nights later, she was greeted with a dimly light house, adorned with candles and the smell of incense. Her eyes widened as she gazed open mouthed at the foyer. There was some faint music playing off in the living room. Greg came out from behind the door with a huge smile on his face, and held his arms out, beckoning to Lydia. Her awe turned to a full grin. She looked happy for the first time since she had been released from the hospital.

“Hey you,” she said, giving a kiss, “What’s all this?”

“Lydia, I hated how I was acting the other night, I just want you to realize that I really do love you. If you can forgive me, I really want to be with you.”

Lydia beamed up at him, putting her hand on the back of his neck, “I don’t blame you,” she said, giving him a light kiss on the lips, “I love you.”

Greg smiled and pulled her up the stairs to his bedroom. He felt unfamiliar, but wonderful as they sat on the bed. He was normal again, like they had bypassed the tragedy. She brushed her hair back while trying to keep her balance on the bed. Greg instantly kissed her brow as he always did. She kissed him back, every touch feeling like a blessing from a priest during confessional. For the first time, he felt this could work, somehow their love could move past the accident. It was only a physical thing, right? She was still the same Lydia inside, and that’s who he loved. He began to think too much, but was stopped by Lydia deeply gazing into his eyes, her pupils freezing him from overanalyzing such a pure moment. She slid her hand gracefully up and down his bare chest, then hooked onto one of his belt loops and pulled him in closer, all the while his face never ceased smiling. They both had their glow back.

Greg removed her shirt, pulling it over the top of her head, and tossed it on the floor. His eyes stayed locked on hers, then dropped to her naked torso.

Instantly, he was held by her breasts, the seized him in a way they never had before - the roundness, fullness, the normalcy. Her stomach, navel, shoulders…they were perfectly balanced and symmetric. But they only acted to emphasize her arm and its stub opposite, an incomplete de Milo. His froze. The vibrant smile immediately flushed from Lydia’s face.

“What,” she said. It was not so much of a question as a demanding that he speak.

“I…I don’t know. No, it’s okay, I’m okay.”

She wasn’t buying it, “No, you’re not. Talk to me.”

“I’m sorry, I really am trying, it’s just difficult for me.”

“Difficult? For you? Excuse me?” Her voice escalated for the first time.

“Well yeah, I’ve just never had to deal with anything like this before, I just need some time.”

“This? Am I an object now? Difficult for you? What the fuck do you think it is for me? I can’t drive yet, I can barely dress myself, I couldn’t even carry my computer into the other room the other day. And now I clearly can’t even be intimate with you without you gawking at me.”

Greg stood up and put his hand out, “Hold on a second, your putting words in my mouth…all I’m asking is try to see it from my view too.”

“Your view? How selfish are you? I’m not the one who made me this way!”

The daggers passed from Lydia’s mouth through Greg’s chest. His jaw stayed slacked as his eyes welled up. Lydia stared at him for a moment, tears starting to stroll down her cheek.

“I think I had better leave…leave me alone for…don’t call…I just don’t know,” she said finally, getting up and swiping her shirt from the floor. Greg stood there, feeling dampness well up in the corners of his eyes.

She tried throwing her shirt on, but it got stuck halfway. She thrashed her arm a little bit, trying to get a hold of it and pull it down correctly, only to get it halfway down sideways, a sleeve pointing out from her chest. She grunted in frustration, swinging her shoulders violently to fix it.

Greg finally grabbed her by the shoulders, stopping her. She looked at him angrily, but he ignored it and turned her shirt straight, and pulled it down, observed it and made sure it was on perfectly. Then he allowed her eyes to meet his again. Lydia stopped holding back and bawled furiously. Greg pulled her in tightly and looked out the door of the bedroom, knowing that he couldn’t let her go, but feeling he couldn’t be with her either, and he hated himself for feeling that way.

Author's Notes/Comments: 

this is the first draft, i cant find the much improved edit

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