Sitting out on my stump in the graveyard, holding my ankle in my hand and crying a little bit. I sprained my ankle last summer around the same time that I broke my heart; they both took longer to heal than I expected, and I wondered if this was because I am older than I used to be. Sometimes it still aches, or I imagine that it does. It's hard to tell.
I press my thumb now into the spot where the fibula articulates with the talus. There ought to be a tendon there, but I seem to feel only a crescent-shaped empty space, as if the long bone of the leg had never really touched down into its nest again. I think there is a word for an indentation of this shape and I chew through my mind after it for a while. Sulcus? I think I used to know.
The pressing in hurts and the emptiness scares me and I start to tear over. It's easy to cry because I am a little bit drunk. Before I came out to the graveyard I went to lunch with Sammie out at the lake. Sammie drank lemon soda because he had to go back to work and I drank Riesling because I didn't.
Sammie had been calling me for a couple of weeks and I'd been letting his calls go because social graces are always the first thing I let lapse when I feel stretched thin. When I finally answered last week he told me he'd bought a new watch.
"Neat," I said.
"It is neat," Sammie said. "But was really neat was the girl who sold it to me. She had such pretty eyes and such pretty hair and she was so nice. And she gave me her card and told me if I had any questions about the watch I should call her. Do you think I should call her?"
"Do you have any questions about the watch?"
"Can you make one up?"
"That sounds complicated. Can't I just ask her out? I mean, the worst thing that can happen is she says no, right?"
"You don't think that would be creepy?"
"No. It would only be creepy if you were a creepy guy, and you're not. Just be casual about it and be prepared to take it gracefully if she says no."
Sammie was a customer of mine when I was a dancer. He used to get panic attacks when he thought about talking to pretty girls. Sammie's parents got divorced when he was three and his mother spent the next seven years dying painfully of cancer and he has been in therapy since basically ever. Paying naked women to talk to him and knowing they would never leave as long as he kept paying them fit into Sammie's schema of life quite well. He used to buy out my whole evenings and I could pay a months rent and bills with what I'd make. I'd feel bad sometimes, but Sammie comes from money and will always come from money and money is not one of the things he has to worry about in this lifetime.
We quit going to club around the same time. It didn't work for either of us anymore. We kept in touch, maybe because he really did just finally spend enough to buy a claim on my affections. We ended up knowing a lot about each other, things we can't talk about with too many other people.
Today he called me up and said he asked the girl at the jewelry store out and the girl said no. I still think this is progress, and I said so.
"Did I tell you I bought a new car?" Sammie said. "It's the kind of car that really needs a girl in it. Can I come and take you for a ride?"
I say OK and twenty minutes later Sammie is there in his new car. I know jack-all about cars, but I know this is a beauty. It's a Mercedes with a bunch of letters in its name, tiny and sleek and low to the ground, and I feel a wash of self-consciousness just walking out to the curb. "Way to set my neighborhood on its ear, Sammie," I say. "They all thought I was a really nice girl."
"I know. Isn't it great?"
Then Sammie makes the car go around curves and corners fast all the way to the restaurant and I cling to the inside of the passenger door and scream and Sammie says, "This, this, is how this car is meant to be driven."
Over lunch, over wine and lemon soda, he asks me how things went in San Francisco and I say, "Fine. Well. Kind of underwhelming, really. I don't think they were very impressed with me and I wasn't very impressed with them either, to be honest. I don't think we found each other, uh, relevant."
"That's fine," he says. "It's the wrong place for you anyway. You know it's really cold and gray there all the time, right?"
"I know. But they have such good Thai food. Anyway, I already got accepted to the other place."
"Well, that's great then. Are you happy?"
"Your heart's not still broken, is it?" This in reference to a conversation we had on the phone some months ago, when it still was.
"No. I don't think so. Just, you know, big changes. New city. New, uh, course of inquiry, or whatever. Whenever you're about to move on from something, you wonder if you did it right, right? If you made the right decisions. If you got everything out of it that you could have. If you really sucked it dry, you know? Or if you're leaving meat on the bones."
"Huh. Well, I don't think you need to reproach yourself too much. You've done about as much living as anyone I know."
In the final analysis, I think so too. But everybody's got unlived parts of themselves, and those are the dangerous parts. Those are the parts you go projecting onto other people and then grasping after, thinking you'll be whole.
"Yeah. Hey, listen, I'm going to have another glass of wine and then I'm going to burst into tears, OK?"
And I do. And Sammie is so good about it, so good and nice. He doesn't look around to see if anyone else is looking at us. He sits with me and after a little while he reaches across the table and squeezes my wrist, but only very gentle and not for too long because he would never want to do anything, you know, creepy.
After I sprained I had to walk carefully. I found out I'd been bearing my weight too far to the outside of the foot, stretching the ligament out imperceptibly, constantly, til it give way under no provocation at all, really, the slightest shift of weight.
Injuries are the best teachers. Some teacher of mine told me that years ago, when I was in the hospital. It was golden to me at the time. In the cemetery later, afternoon-drunk, wine-drunk, the drunk of easy tears, I sit on my stump holding my ankle, pressing into the healed spot, wondering if there's supposed to be something there or if it's OK that there's an empty space.