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Cheating in the Water


Mona lost her left arm in a car accident four months ago and was still in that state where practically every single thing you do reminds of you of that jaunty little tidbit of your life.

Most of the moment of the accident and its immediate aftermath was a haze, but that just made the five or six stark, near-frozen memories all the more unforgettable, indelible, eternal.

1.      The text message she was double-checking before sending to Rachel, wondering if she should add the word ‘really’ twice to underscore the seriousness of not having enough avocado salad for the weekend.

2.      The sound of Henry’s gasp, even though it was so much quieter than the sound of him jamming on the horn and brakes, since it was that sharp intake of air which brought her eyes up off her phone to see the car in front of them reversing at a ridiculously fast speed for no fathomable reason at all.

3.      The crumpling of the car in such a way that the section of dashboard in front of the passenger side bent like putty as her seat seemingly bounded forward to pin her left shoulder between these two objects which at their cores were much stronger than flesh and bone.

4.      Trying to wrench herself free of the now-wreck because – almost impossibly – everything else seemed quite all right except for some scraps and bruises on the frantically kicking legs and hysterically waving right arm.

5.      The smell of that one fireman’s terrible and overpowering aftershave, which drowned out his words that didn’t really need to be said anyway as shock had certainly set in by this point and she didn’t need to bother trying to read his lips since his partner beside him seemed to be using the jaws of life with almost indifference as if it was clear from the get-go that she was fine except for a crunched and mangled (and certainly numb) left arm.

6.      (optional) The sigh of the surgeon at the hospital telling her the news that wasn’t really news, but sounded like #2 turned inside out.

And now standing on the beach but staring back at the thick, green tropical foliage from whence she emerged thirty minutes prior, Mona let only the sound of the waves wash over her.

She though of Miles Davis song titles and the decay of modern jazz. She turned again and wet her lips at the sight of the salty sea.

It’s all backwards and there’s no point in trying to scratch the feeling away. Someone famous and drunk said that in an interview. Must have been on television. Memories of television. Oh yeah. That thing.

An easy, forced sacrifice and that’s being generous. Not much sacrifice involved in getting a boatload of money and quitting the sales job that just barely paid the bills in the first place.

That’s the good news, anyway.

What’s the rest of this life really all about?

She might have asked this out loud. Screamed it, even. Just her along this seemingly endless beach.

Henry would have liked it for a day or two, then he’d be bored to tears.

She didn’t miss Henry. It wasn’t the best sort of relationship in the first place. Kind of out of convenience, really.

Tolerable, straightforward, not a lot of highs, no real lows. Could enjoy being in a room with him for almost all of the time.

Until this. Henry actually cried in his hospital bed, banged up all to hell, immobile. First time she ever saw him do that. Apologizing feebly in between sobs over and over again when she visited him. She was already walking around and starting intense physio-rehab- whatever sessions.

Three months later, though, he was pretty much back to normal, walking around and getting into the work routine, and Mona was still down an arm. Now she would say that she didn’t turn on the blame really heavy, since ‘the other guy’ was driving like a maniac, but Henry was definitely giving too much attention to putting together a playlist on the car’s bluetooth entertainment system when it all went south in a hurry.

But she thinks that he thought she was guilting him with every slight gesture and problem that highlighted her newfound handicap.

Asking him to help with getting dressed, or reaching for something high in the closet, or clearing the table? Apparently it was her reminding him of his failure. In actuality she just needed help at that moment, and she told him that, but the other possibility was too hard for him to shake, and he told her that he felt like she was making him feel guilty, even if she wasn’t intending to. And what can anyone say to that?

So Henry left, and didn’t make a peep about the money. Which he had to have known was coming, so… there’s that?

There’s nothing. There’s just water, a beach, a beautiful blue sky and a one armed woman standing there.

But standing. And then walking into the approaching and receding waves, feeling the cold ocean water on her feet.

You think a lot about what you’d rather lose when you lose something. Arms or legs? No point in having two perfectly good arms if you can’t physically run away from many of your problems at the drop of a hat, and with no help from anyone else or ramps.

Arms, though. Two hands for phones, keyboards, cooking, carrying, etc forever.

Legs, though. Can go anywhere, no problem, no assistance required, nothing to slow you down. And definitely plural. Even one leg makes a complete cripple (she’s one of them now, she can use that word).

You’re slowed down with one arm. You’re stopped completely with one leg or none.

So Mona is thankful that she can feel both feet, ankles, and knees get wet as she advances further into the ocean.

Not impossible to put on a two piece swimsuit with one arm, but not easy.

Mona goes deeper and is soon swimming, staying above the relatively calm waves with her powerful kicking.

Ducking under the surface after taking a deep breath. The salt stung her eyes but it – the big it – was worth the pain.

Here it mattered less than anywhere else. It could be forgotten, ignored, she was just another silly creature pretending to be a fish.

She wasn’t escaping for good. She was just on a vacation from reality. You need a really good reason to live with a lie. Here she was just talking a break from the truth.

Living on land was hard, but there’s cheating in the water.




We are all just someone who read something on the internet