"Three Legged Dog" excerpt
My girlfriend is missing her left breast. She has a horizontal scar across half her chest, like the seam of a pocket that holds her heart. She had cancer before I met her. I don’t mind. I once went with a girl who had multiple labia piercings and that was more annoying. This is kind of cool. The skin around the scar is darker than the rest of her as if shadowed by a permanent cloud. A constellation of tattooed points circumnavigates the incision: on her sternum, beneath her collarbone, under her arm, along her first rib. The radiologist put them there as guides. One night, I took a marker and connected the dots. No hidden picture emerged, just an awkward box around the void. I like the bare expanse of that half of her chest, an empty sky, an open question about what will happen next.
When I first saw her, I was attracted to her right away - even though her hair was buzzed like a cholo and her loose jeans hung on her hipbones. Her arms were a fairy’s limbs, lithe and white in the bar’s dim light, with two inches of dark vein on the inside of her right elbow. I wondered if she was a junkie, but later she told me it was just the chemotherapy that saved her life and destroyed her veins, left them hard and small and turned that one permanently black.
It was hot as hell that night, and the bar wasn’t air-conditioned. The heat was like a piece of felt from one of my grade school projects, thick and fuzzy. It made my tongue dry. I stood by the front door panting like a dog and my bottle of beer warmed before I finished it. I tried to get my two buddies to leave. I suggested we buy a six-pack and go back to my place or at least go upscale and find a goddamn bar with air conditioning, but I guess they enjoyed the stink of their own sweat. I went up to the bar to get a glass of ice and she was standing there. Her cheekbones reflected the red neon from the Bud
Light sign and she had no eyebrows. Someone pushed me from behind and I bumped into her. She glanced up at me, smiled politely as I apologized, but I could tell she didn’t see me.
“Hey,” I said. “How come you look so cool?”
“I’ve reached the ninth circle of hell,” she said.
“The icy one. I’m still back in number six - in flames.”
She was impressed I knew my Inferno, but I offered to buy her a drink and she refused.
“You are the most amazing woman I’ve ever seen,” I said. “I can’t stop looking at you. What is it?”
“Are you a necrophile?”
“You’re not dead.” I paused. “Are you?”