Monday, September 17, 2012

"Arthrogram" by Elizabeth Wade

You were not there when the doctor drew an x on my body, when he tried to insert a needle into that x, when he tried to flood my joint, tried to create contrast. And you were not there when he failed, when he failed and failed and failed again, not there when he finally quit probing and delegated me to a colleague. I do not know when we quit probing. I know that you were never good with equations. I know that I was sloppy whenever I solved for x. I remember forgetting to think about inversion, about how once they are squared, the positive and negative look just the same. I was never good at starting with mystery, at quantifying things, at defining possibilities. I was never good with more than one variable, never saw how x fit with y, never grasped their dependency. The year I took my only college math course, I spent a lot of time looking for y. That was the year we agreed to meet in the middle, picked a spot on the map, and drove all night. That was the night we got lost, the night we circled each other for hours, the night when I found you by the color of your shirt, not knowing that was the wrong variable, not knowing that night in that town belonging to neither of us that we would never solve for x. Years later, I lay in the hospital without you as the needle kept trying to find its way inside me. I did not know it until I got home, but there at the injection site, beneath a piece of my skin I do not think you ever touched, bled a single sphere of ink, the center of the x that doctor kept chasing. A man who’s not you told me I think that’s how they do it in prison, meaning the way the convicted take their allegiances into their bodies, the way they decorate themselves, how they bear the ones they lack, how they signal those outside.

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