Moaning, I threw yet another shirt on the bed and pulled on a purple cotton tank with lace at the hem. I added a purple beaded necklace, the silver bracelet my parents gave me that has the entire serenity prayer written on it in impossibly tiny letters that serves as a tangible reminder than I do not govern the universe, and a long, lightweight white shirt. I hurried to the mirror to examine the effect.
I nodded at my third and final outfit and headed to the bathroom to take my morning meds, disgusted with my own fussing.
I had changed my underwear to a nicer pair in a more subdued color. Doubtless I would have my pants off before too long.
I had remembered to shave and moisturize my one leg. Brushed and flossed, hair blown dry and sprayed, facial moisturizer slathered on. I sniffed under a raised arm — yeah, I already applied deodorant.
I debated changing my shoes but was running too short on time to get out the extra long shoe horn and start the wrestling match with my slightly nicer pair of black flats.
Nerves tightened my shoulders as I drove. We had made arrangements over the phone to meet at a place I had never been. My GPS system spoke to me in its Australian male voice, calmly guiding me closer and closer to this new person.
I wasn’t sure I was ready for a new partner, but the last one had already said goodbye. He was moving to Arizona and our relationship was over. He let me down easy, assuring me that he would miss me and that he still cared about me. He had to pursue his own career, and of course I understood that.
I parked the car and took a few deep, slow breaths. Grabbing my purse from the passenger seat, I shoved my keys into it and walked unsteadily toward the door and my potential new relationship.
To my relief, our initial get-to-know-you chat went quite well after the initial awkwardness wore off. I think we will suit each just fine.
As all amputees know, having to switch prosthetists is a nerve-wracking experience. I had followed my last one from one practice to another office much further away from my home in order to maintain our relationship.
I felt comfortable with Charlie. I felt like he knew me and understood my body intimately, as only a professional who fits a prosthetic socket into the groin of an above-knee amputee can. We had in-jokes about real problems (mechanics) and girl problems (aesthetic objections), and he addressed both with equal seriousness while appreciating my ironic feminist wit.
While I understood in my head that Charlie’s move was good for himself and his spouse, and I wished them the best, I nonetheless felt in my heart the loss of his kind, easygoing nature and vast prosthetic expertise, his quirky sense of humor and sharp eye. It’s difficult enough to endure endless fittings and adjustments, but it’s far worse if you can’t relax and trust the person groping your butt to find your ischial tuberosity.
It felt terribly vulnerable to show someone new my naked leglet (i.e. residual limb or stump), with its uneven folds and assortment of scars, ghosts of surgeries past. It was exhausting to go through the whole story again–the cancer, the chemo, the surgeries, the staph infections, more surgeries, the amputation.
We talked a little about what I do. I made it clear that I am not athletic or outdoorsy and remain completely uninspired by posters of mountain-climbing amputees. Perhaps they could find a poster of a female amputee in professional attire confidently speaking from a podium in a conference room? No?
As I left, I touched my fingers lightly to my bracelet, reflecting on what I can and cannot change. It will take patience and a willingness to be vulnerable for me to build a partnership with my new prosthetist. I’ll miss Charlie but I am ready to start over again.