I Fell In Love With A One Legged Girl Once

I fell in love with a one legged girl once

Her friends had denounced her for sleeping with a black man long before

And I had denounced them, in turn, silently

You see this was before I had found my voice as a young man

I saw her for the first time in a long…, in her half empty jean shorts

And she laughed harder than all of those drinking before the band at the party

And she glared hard at the sideways glances at her missing appendage

And she slapped me hard on the shoulder when I brought her a beer between sets and told me she was glad to see me

As if she had nothing missing since the last time I saw her

As if half those present hadn’t turned her away

As if she and I were whole

An hour and a half later I was driving her and a drunken man she had just met who clearly thought he could “get some” three hours to Austin, Texas from my small town

The drunken “get some” man pawed at her a bit, and I thought for a moment I would have to pull over on the side of the road and throw him in a ditch

But she handled him with grace

And the man was unconscious within less than ten

We spoke then and I called her “strong”

And she replied that we are who we have to be

We spoke then and I called her “beautiful”

And she replied that she was

We spoke then and I realized that would I could I would be her missing leg

Only she needed no one

Only she needed no crutch other than aluminum

Only she was determined to leave a world behind to a new crisp stretch of earth

To leave me to drive back

With an unaccountable broken heart

Still tempted to throw the unconscious drunk out on the side of the road

I understood that she had risen from her tragedy more whole than I have ever been

I understood that she was more beautiful having survived this than I had ever found her before

I understood that no matter how others perceived her it was us that were less

It was us that lacked the struggle that taught us the truth

It was us that flinched before the flame that cauterized

It was us that feared the certainty behind the curtain

She held something within that I fell for overnight

She held something within that told her to be true to herself

She held the knowledge that we were the ones missing something

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