I should be headed home. Pools of light are forming on the street beneath thin lampposts. Last night you awoke to watch my body when you thought I was sleeping. I heard you whisper over my parts, wishing I was made more metal, smooth, mechanical and hard. Instead I overflow. You tell me you are becoming accustomed to my body, a tolerance is building, as with your allergy to my cats. I am a thing to which you must grow immune.
Nighttime is quiet here. My footsteps on the sidewalk are uneven. One leg always lags a little behind. I stop to rest, sit on a stone wall and gaze into the lighted windows of the neighbors.
Before I fall asleep each night, I unspool my plaited hair, spreading it out over the pillow. Each morning I wake up with a Dutch braid encircling my skull.
Your unctuous brother called me a counterfeit woman. My lipstick and skirts trick people into believing I am desirable, he said. It’s just dishonest.
Some of my parts are missing. You like to name my scars. I like to leave the lights on, but you prefer the darkness, reading the raised flesh like Braille.
The world is structured for people who have no weaknesses. Some mornings my feet won’t touch the floor. My ankles cannot support me. I no longer have the luxury of isolating my mind from my body. The pain is too great. Pain is not weakness leaving the body, it is fully inhabiting the gimp legs I was born with, the wicked womb. I once would’ve been called a monster because my body does not look like yours. Now you think you are more polite by merely thinking the word.
My own disability is usually invisible, unless you see me unclothed. Unless you see me standing, askew. Unless you see me at the end of the day, bandaging my ankles, curling around myself in bed as if I could bury disorder. Disappear.
You took a lover with strong calves, no limp, a rugby player. Don’t your hands just disappear into her fat, she asks. I imagine you both laughing at me, the difficulty I have standing, the positions I cannot attempt. You will never have to sit quietly and listen while other people talk about the ways in which they avoid being your size.
I would create a new woman. Birth a daughter. I would not let her repent for me nor suffer the same. Every Saturday, Melusine and her sisters hid from their husbands who couldn’t bear to look upon their true form. Some stories say a snake’s tail, some a mermaid. Her bottom half deformed; unable to walk.
It’s true I try to hide from you. For as long as possible I wore long dresses, contorted my limbs into pleasing positions. Even I was surprised at my flexibility! So you are not entirely wrong when you claim I misled you. If you had known earlier of my disability, we never would have gotten married.
The French expression crie de Mélusine enacts horrible paralyses on those who hear it. It is the sound made by the mermaid upon discovery.