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Let Me Be Frank

There is extensive scarring beneath the left knee. The ankle does not function properly, leaving the foot rigid and inflexible. Between us, the leg in question is affectionately called “the child’s leg”. It is strikingly thin, we agree. Standing up – especially after a long bout of lying or sitting down – always requires getting used to. The arms hoist the body up, a few wobbly, tentative steps are made, the heavy torso teeters back and forth. Really, it’s buying time to gather courage, since placing the full body weight on the leg is a shock. Sometimes this process is accompanied by clenched fists, a furrowed brow, and bared teeth. Never a grunt or a gasp. The pain is swallowed quietly and constantly. The scars have proven to be simultaneously numb and highly tender. Only the gentlest stroke goes completely unnoticed. Fingers as feathers moved by a breeze, or else the touch is agony. The days are divided into bad ones and torturous ones. There is never any sustained relief.

It was not, as one might assume, the bullet through the knee that did the leg in. Nor the strike of a machete to the thigh. Yes, the 90s, stationed in The Democratic Republic of Congo while enlisted with the French Foreign Legion, had been violent – but left no permanent physical ailment. Ironically, it happened shortly after returning home. It was losing control of the motorcycle that tore the foot almost completely off the body. It hung only by a thread. The doctors had initially recommended amputation, but after much discussion what was left was kept. Now the leg lies between us in bed.

So – as we lay there – I whisper secrets, tell stories, or reiterate my affection while considering the leg. It serves as a reminder of sorts. Maybe that nothing I ever share can be worse than the unrelenting pain. Or maybe it creates intimacy? Isn’t intimacy constructing a private space without judgment? After all, the disfigured limb exists conspicuously, unapologetically. To be frank, the whole business with the leg is ugly, and yet at times, we have sex standing up. No matter how clumsily. 


Hannah Mary Blankenship was raised in Montgomery, Alabama and now lives in Bremen, Germany. She writes creative non-fiction, short stories, and poetry. Hannah is a convenience store clerk, too. She knows all the regular customers’ preferred cigarette brands by heart. Her previous work has been published in Oxford Magazine, Paragon Journal, and Trilog Magazin.

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