Magda’s boyfriend, everyone agreed, looked gorgeous and she was in love. He worked at the hospital where she was a nurse. She watched him working out in the gym, saw the muscles ripple below the skin and loved what made him what he was.
She woke one morning to find one of her knees swathed in bandages. Her boyfriend, the perfect, dark-haired surgeon she had been dating, had dissected her knee overnight.
“Why?” she asked him.
“I couldn’t resist it. I wanted to look at those beautiful bluey veins. I want to see every part of you, close up,” he said, smiling.
It was inconvenient, but it was touching in a way, and it wasn’t too long before she had healed.
Months after, without warning, he made an incision in her thigh to inspect the tightness of her sinew.
Then she found that he had removed two scars, one on an ankle and another on her shoulder, the outcome of falling from her new bicycle twenty years before. The skin graft took perfectly.
“I want you to be perfect, without a blemish,” he said, kissing her on her eyelid. His lips were cold.
She was thinking then that those scars were a part of her.
She remembered the morning when the accident happened. The sun overhead in the blue, her mother wiping her hands on her apron on the front step, the swelling of pride she’d had when she had recklessly pushed off, and tried to embroider the moment by ringing the bell.
“Look at me!” she had shouted, just before disaster struck.
Now, it was as though her mother had never existed; as though her mother had survived the cancer that killed her. As though her father, not too long after his wife had died, had not after all stepped into the road in his tearful, drugged confusion, in front of the livestock delivery truck. It was as though he had not died either and was now living by the sea somewhere in perpetual convalescence.
Magda had been without parents for ten years and more. Now, this foolish dark-haired lover had robbed her of herself.
“We are the scars we bear,” she said under her breath, thinking of her knee and her thigh.
For two weeks, she became a corpse to him. Then, one night in bed, she came to herself.
“I can only love you now as an amputee,” she told him, and pulled from her bedside cupboard some items she had collected there, showing him the clean, analytical beauty of an artificial foot, a prosthetic hand, a cold, glass eye.
He looked at her, as though considering the merit of the bargain, but he said nothing before he turned away to sleep.
She never saw him again, though a while later she received a finger, frozen and wrapped in cling film, through the post. As a gesture, it did little for her, and only served, as she saw it, to underline their incompatibility.
-Michael Spring works for a small graphic design and marketing company in West London and writes when he can. A very long time ago, when he was a student in Belfast, he knew some people who could write like angels. He is still trying to emulate their example.
-Photograph by Christopher Barrio
-Model in Photo: Juliana Kannengieser