Jasmine Neosh is a poet, fiction-writer, and activist from Chicago, IL. Her short fiction and poetry have appeared previously in tNY, Hypertext, Thought Catalog, and THE2NDHAND, among others. More work and information can be found at jasmineneosh.wordpress.com.
I first noticed something was wrong when we were holding hands and his slipped out of mine and hit the ground between us. He stared at his handless wrist and I stared at the armless hand. I asked him if it hurt. He stared at the empty end of his sleeve and said that he didn’t think so. I picked the hand off the ground and was surprised by how it felt both different and familiar: the skin texture I knew so well versus the sudden feeling of dead weight.
His other hand went next. His arms, his legs all at once. His eyes rolled out onto the ground when I took him to the park to get his mind off things. His tongue hit the floor with an awkward splat during our shared yoga class.
I pleaded with him daily to go to the doctor, and to hell with the medical expenses, though I knew just like he knew that they would be astronomical and very well could end us. I offered to borrow money from my parents. I said I would get a second job. I said I cared more about him than money, reminded him that I swore I’d be in it for better or worse. He shook his head slowly, his jaw determined and set with a piece of twine, his eyes (I realized) in the wrong sockets.
“So what are we going to do?” I asked. “Just sit here and wait for everything to fall off? What if your head falls off?”
He wrote on a piece of paper, “Our son will take care of everything.”
I told him we didn’t have a son.
He wrote on a piece of paper, “we should have had a son,” shortly before his fingers fell from his palm like five withered October leaves.
For three days after that, the last time I asked, the last time he said anything, he lay in our bed, shaking so hard the frame would rattle. Some of his limbs came loose, his eyes and his teeth wobbled. He wouldn’t eat. I pulled him up into my arms and asked him what was wrong. He told me with his hands that his penis was going to fall off. I asked him how he knew. He told me with his eyes that he just did.
“You’re going to be okay,” I said and I kissed the top of his head. As I pulled my mouth away, I wondered if I would see my lips, my jaw, my teeth sitting there in his hair. I touched them with my free hand. They were still there. That night, as he fell asleep, it finally happened, and he stopped shaking, stopped writing, spoke only with his hands or with his head or his eyes from then on.
I am trying to keep him together.
I have made harnesses for all of his limbs that he can use when we go out in the daytime and as long as he is still and quiet, no one seems to suspect a thing. I have rigged up special glasses that keep his eyes in, and a fake beard that keeps his jaw firm and strong.
At the end of the day, I tape back on whatever has fallen off, sometimes where it was, sometimes somewhere else. I hold him as tightly as I can at night so that nothing falls off and rolls behind the bed or underneath the radiator. I dream sometimes that I am holding the world, and the clouds and the oceans and the mountains keep slipping through my arms into space, and I keep trying to grab them and put them back but then something new falls off, until I am holding nothing but a pile of dust and splinters in my desperately grasping arms. I wake up to the sound of my husband’s bones cracking just like a mountain being flattened by itself.