The operation was last week. It took a team of four doctors ten hours to dislocate him from my side. We'd been joined at the hip for too many years to count and he wasn't going anywhere without a fight. But the surgeons were highly trained and skilled; his rudimentary application was no match for their nimble fingers. When all was said and done, the doctors stood over our newly detached bodies, shaking hands and slapping backs, admiring their handiwork. We were proclaimed a success.
We lay there a while longer, unable yet to stand, each on our own feet. We had risen and descended simultaneously for so long as one entity, it felt entirely foreign and more than a little awkward, to attempt such basic, unsynchronized movement independent of one another. The first steps are always the hardest.
But this is what I wanted, I reminded myself. This is what I had argued and fought for, dreamt about and anticipated, for the latter half of our union. It was just going to take some getting used to. It was perfectly within reason to feel overwhelmed and apprehensive immediately following separation. I recalled having once read about blinded people who were sighted through surgery. Suicidal feelings were not uncommon in the days and weeks thereafter. The visual world, which they had lived in the shadows of for so long, was too much for them. It was the darkness that they knew, in which they felt safe and secure.
I looked over at Ping. He seemed so small and vulnerable lying there alone with his limbs and organs all to himself. I realized I had no knowledge of how he appeared from a distance greater than six inches. To me, from my vantage point aside his hip, he had always seemed strong and virile. Now he appeared as fragile as a newborn fawn. I wondered how his legs would ever hold him.
I was filled briefly with misgivings and self-doubt, questioning my desire for autonomy. I turned away from his pleading eyes and choked back all feelings of regret. There was no time for them. Now was the time for independence and self-discovery, for forging ahead as one, lighted now by the removal of his body, which had become like an unwelcome tumor weighing me down, encumbering my movement and freedom.
I left him without so much as a goodbye. It was too soon to speak. I feared his magnetic pull. I did not trust my own instincts. For the first time in years I entered the car on the driver's side. Just sitting behind the wheel, the key yet in my quavering hand, was a great empowerment. I drove away from that hospital without any predetermined destination in mind. I drove and was intoxicated by the motion, by the perpetual push forward. But the intoxication soon waned as I realized I was dependent yet upon a force outside myself. What I really wanted, what I sought above all else, was to experience my bodyís own power and capabilities, without aid of another. At the next light I turned and parked the car. I got out and began walking on the sidewalk, propelled now solely by my own legs, my own muscles and blood and determination. The singularity of my stride was both dizzying and unnerving. Tears welled and fell from my eyes but I was unable to determine the reason for their existence; I was unable to distinguish joy from sorrow. My emotions were an entanglement of every feeling I had ever experienced.
At this point, overcome by vertigo and light-headedness, I found an uninhabited bench and sat perfectly still in the shadow of a single, lone oak. The oak was at once majestic and pitiful, standing tall in all of its sorrowful glory. I yearned to wrap my arms about its great trunk, to feel something other than my own skin against me. I dreamed of making myself an appendage to its side, an outgrowth of its sturdy being.
This is when the aches began, the phantom pains. They started in my western hemisphere and spread rapidly eastward, quickly overtaking my entire system. They were sharp and unwavering, and though I did my best to ignore them, to convince myself of their nonexistence, they continued undaunted by my disbelief, impairing my breaths and confusing my thoughts. I walked on, hoping the continued movement might relieve some of my discomfort. But instead the pain became more acute, swelled and magnified, reaching now to my heart. I feared it might cease pumping in the face of so much hurt.
I retreated to the car and with every ounce of strength and clarity I could muster, drove back in the direction of the hospital. I could feel my body weakening, my joints stiffening and my organs atrophying. I looked at the clock and drove faster.
Ping was waiting for me just outside the door, leaning up against the brick wall for support. With all my remaining might I ran to him and with a level of faith I had heretofore thought only a fool could possess, knew that once united, our bodies would cease their deterioration and once more thrive. With a rush of adrenaline I jumped and impaled myself upon his body, encircling his waist with my trembling thighs, crushing his chest with the weight of my own.
I prayed it wasn't too late. I hoped the doctors had not yet left the building. There was no question reattachment was in order. This time, however, attachment of the hips would not be enough. This time I wanted to adhere myself to his very core. This time we would leave no room for scalpels, no leeway for dismantlement.
[Forever after at http://eyeshot.net/conjoined.html]
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