Lost and Found
© Mike Finn 2011
The first thing most men see is the leg that isn’t there. Some scan the rest of me as if trying to solve an unexpected puzzle. Few make it as far as my face. Almost none make eye contact and those that do are quick to look away.
I was never a crowd-stopping beauty, but I was young enough and pretty enough for men to give me at least a smile.
I took it for granted before the accident. I’m surprised at how much I miss it now.
Tonight I’m sitting on a bar stool, wearing my sexiest frock and I’m still mostly invisible.
My helmet protected my face and the physio I’ve done since the accident has kept me in shape. I’m mostly the woman I always was. Apart from the leg that isn’t there. And the fact that I can’t ride a bike anymore. And that I’ve slept alone for the past six months.
Racing my Suzuki used to be my passion. Nothing matched the thrill of canting my bike over and powering through a curve. I was fearless on the track. I knew I could handle anything a race threw at me.
It turned out that what I couldn’t handle was a quick ride to the shops to pick up some milk. A housewife who could barely see over the steering wheel of her Range Rover, side-swiped me on Camden High Street, crushing my left leg so badly that it had to be amputated below the knee.
I’ve been told many times that it could have been worse; I could have been paralyzed or killed instead of just having a limb trimmed.
I’ve tried to look at it that way, to be grateful for what I have rather than angry about what I’ve lost but I can’t quite get myself there.
In my dreams, I still ride, I still run, I still see desire in the eyes of the men I meet.
My therapist says that I’m grieving for my leg. That this is normal. That it will pass.
My therapist is full of shit.
Amputation is not normal. It will not pass. And it is not my leg I grieve for, it is the life I have lost and which I know I will never get back.
Anyway, I don’t want the grief to pass. Grief gives me a focus for my rage and a reason for my tears.
I refused the prosthetic limb they offered me. Accepting it would have made the amputation real; confirming the permanence of my gimp status.
Before the accident, I used to come to this bar when I wanted to find someone to spend the night with. I met Jonas here. We’d been together for a couple of months when I popped out to get some milk. We were a Saturday-night-fuck kind of couple. I enjoyed the way he danced. He enjoyed the way I looked on his arm. We had fun together in bed. We both knew that we were just passing time together.
Jonas stayed with me until he was sure that I was going to live, then he said he was sorry and left.
He was a nice guy who wanted to have some fun. He wanted me to live but he didn’t want to be tied to a cripple for the rest of his life. I knew exactly how he felt.
So now I’m on my third drink of the evening and not one man has talked to me. The bar stools on either side of me have stayed empty although the bar is filling up. I can tell the barman wants me gone; I’m bad for business.
“Can I buy you a drink?”
It’s not the most original line, but it’s the only one I’ve heard all night so I’m already smiling as I turn on my stool to find the source of the voice.
Not bad. A little older than me. Well, maybe a decade older than me. Not handsome but not Quasimodo either. Two things make him seem out of place: he’s wearing bike leathers and he’s looking me in the eye rather than staring at the place where my leg should be.
“Why do you want to buy me a drink?”
That wasn’t my normal reply. I’m not sure where it came from. Or what it means.
Apparently completely unfazed by my departure from the normal mating ritual, he smiles and says, “I don’t. The drink is just an excuse to talk to you.”
It’s my turn to smile. He has a nice voice. He sounds honest and friendly.
“And why do you want to talk to me?”
“Well, I’m alone in London in a bar that was for bikers the last time I was here but has now been colonized by people from another planet.”
“That tells me that you’re lonely, lost and out of touch with modern life. It doesn’t tell me why it’s me you want to talk to.”
He steps closer to me, still keeping eye contact and says, “Three reasons: you look wonderful in that dress, inexplicably you seem to be alone and I’m curious about how you lost your leg?”
It takes me a second to process the last statement.
“You want to know how I lost my leg?”
I can’t believe he asked that. No one asks that. I wait for anger to push through me; for the outrage to start. The best I can manage is surprise.
“Yes. I figure it will tell me more about you than an hour of small talk.”
Incredible. His tone is light and fearless. No trace of embarrassment. He seems genuinely interested.
“So how did you lose your leg?”
My laugh is too loud. It sounds hollow, even to me.
He remains silent, waiting for me to finish.
I break eye-contact and say, “Sorry. It’s just that I hate that phrase. I didn’t lose my leg. A surgeon with a hacksaw took it away from me and I’m never getting it back.”
A tear slides down my cheek. He reaches out and brushes it away.
“You can buy me that drink now if you like.”
He busies himself getting me another glass of wine. He doesn’t order anything for himself.
I take a sip of wine. Still looking away from him I say, “My leg was crushed when a car hit my bike.”
I watch his face to see his reaction.
“What kind of bike was it?”
Caught by surprise I tell him the specs of my Suzuki.
“Very nice,” he says “for a Jap bike. I ride a Ducatti myself.”
I snort and launch a set of disparaging remarks about under-sized Italian bikes that are all flash and no muscle. We talk about bikes for a while. Nothing special, just the usual chatter on which bikes rock and which bikes suck and why. It is the most normal conversation that I’ve had in months.
“Does it hurt?”
The question comes out of nowhere.
“Only when I run”
We both laugh.
He moves his head towards mine. I wonder if he is going to kiss me. Then I wonder if I will let him.
“Can I touch it?”
The words are tender, sensual, seductive.
I don’t trust myself to speak so I give a single nod.
His eyes stay on mine as his cool fingers find the stump of my leg. Gently he traces the scar tissue. Then he rests his palm on the stump and slowly works his fingers in a circle.
I search his eyes for a reaction to my crippled flesh. I fear revulsion or pity or twisted excitement. I find nothing but kindness.
The kiss, when it comes, is soft but passionate. Not perfect but pretty good for a first effort.
“My bike is outside,” he says. “I have a spare helmet. Do you want to go for a ride?”
The idea of being on a bike again fills me with joy. I want to be on the bike right now, even in this smart frock. I want to lean into his back and inhale the smell of his leathers. I want to slide into curves. I want to have a life.
“Answer me one question first.”
“What’s your name.”