Your right leg hurts like hell.
No big deal, that’s what you keep telling yourself. After all, you feel pain there all the time. Sometimes it’s a prickling in the joint just behind the kneecap, sometimes a burning feeling right in the front. In other moments, you feel as if you had been sitting on your leg for hours. Your calf feels like a pin cushion.
This is not a new pain. The first pangs started years ago, but you were always resistant to pain. That’s what your wife said to the doctor when she finally convinced you to go to a hospital—but not before you noticed the change of coloration in the skin of your right foot. A sickly bluish tinge that definitely didn’t look normal to you.
You thought it could be arthritis, or gout. (What the color of the skin has to do with any of these two ailments, you still don’t know to this day.) So what?, you thought to yourself even after letting your wife put you in the car and drive you to see the doctor. Your grandma had gout, your father had gout, it was coming to get you sooner or later; you knew very well it was just a matter of when.
Then the exams came. Diabetes.
The pain in the leg—now excruciating, far more than you’d care to admit to your wife—was the result of the lack of blood circulation in the extremity of the limb. If it had been diagnosed earlier, the doctor told them, certainly something could have been done about it. Now, however, it was too late for that.
It’s good that they noticed it so early, his wife had told him later that day to cheer him up. She always was so prone to see the bright side of things, the sunny side of the street, the glass half full.
That inherent goodness of her just makes your pain worse now.
Sometimes you feel like taking a pill—any pill—to make the pain go away. But the only thing that will really do the trick is an old picture you carry in your wallet. A photograph taken on a weekend in Tampa with your wife. There, in that sun-splashed square of frozen time, both still happily insist on surviving: your leg and your wife.
Both died the same day. She was killed in a stupid car crash right in front of the hospital. You didn’t heard the commotion outside: under the effect of the anesthetics, your body was saying bye-bye to your right leg.
That was three years ago.
But the photo can only do so much. Your right leg still hurts like hell. It doesn’t need to be there. The limb (as the memory of your wife) may be only a ghost. But pain? Pain is concrete. Pain knows no boundaries.