If I were your biographer and I wanted to chronicle the various detours your life took, perhaps because they paralleled mine, I would start with the first line, “He was just an ordinary guy who took the subway.” I like the ironic value in that sentence. The most noticeable thing about you is that you’re missing a hand. The left one. Many people have their own theories as to how you lost your hand. They never come right out at first and start exposing you as well as themselves. The most popular theory is that you lost your hand during a war. Perhaps you didn’t fling the grenade in time. Or the enemy wearing masks with little diamond shaped holes to breathe and see through cut it off while they interrogated you for secrets you would only give up to a biographer you could trust. You would not surrender your childhood memories of atrocities in mother’s bedroom when father was only a guest. You would not relinquish your dream, which is mine too, of acquiring a new hand even if it would never be as dexterous or as intimate as the old one, assuming it was once there in the first place. Speaking for myself, I can truthfully say that it is quite cumbersome to write your biography with only one hand. When someone does get the nerve to ask you, Mr. Ordinary With-Only-One-Hand, you say that you are a veteran of. . . so many things. Immediately, you can tell from the glint in their eyes, they know which war, domestic or otherwise, the exact circumstances, why your marriages failed, how you can never look children in the face without blushing because you feel that in their eyes you’re missing parts and therefore, inadequate. And in this biography that has so often been stalled by unnecessary details and unproven claims, there are citations of women upon women, wives dreaming of finding detached hands, bloody, in various drawers of their Art Deco rooms, or under their dresses. You can tell from that sly smile that spreads across the faces of the commuters you ride with that they know that you know their little secret and their spouses’ as well as mine too. Everyone who rides this same subway car as you is missing a toe or a finger or something so personal that its absence must be preciously denied. Everyone who rides this subway has at least one artificial part.
Kyle Hemmings is a writer from New Jersey.