Phantom Limb

He was back on his feet after a couple of days without leaving the bed. His toes felt weird against the cold bathroom floor, as if they were needed to make an extra effort to keep the balance. He felt his head leaning towards the mirror and tried to hold his back up. He washed his face with freezing cold water and waited for it to dry while preparing his razor for shaving.

The look on his face would make you imagine a soldier shaving before a battle, trying to bring some civility to the bloody chaos outside the bunker. There was this long warfare going on between his head and his heart, one willing to understand her death and the other not ready to let her go. His heart was falling little by little since she passed away, he had a heart attack six months after the funeral, the pressure on his veins had not been normal for three years now and walking was so painful these days that he preferred to starve than lead himself to the kitchen.

He missed her in the way one misses a limb that had been cut off. She was dead and he accepted it. She was not coming back and he made his way through the last five years without a single cry. She loved death and when it came to find her, she kissed him goodbye and departed smiling. Death was what she wanted although she loved being alive by his side. However, his heart was not the same without her bright eyes on his on Saturday nights. While shaving his face he left the bath fill with warm water.

He always took baths when he shaved. It was a ritual of sorts, to get up, shave his face, soak to the bones in warm water and shave his legs. He had been shaving it since she got cancer. He remembered how strong and confident she felt when she had both head and legs shaved. She liked to feel her scalp naked as well as her body and, even though she did not have much strength left, she would rub her legs against his and they would make love, gently but passionately.

He started to shave his own legs to get a bit of her personality and courage, to feel himself naked and strong, vulnerable and still brave. In the lonely nights, sharing his bed with white sheets, he would rub his legs against each other and think of her.

That day, when he finished the ritual, his heart was pumping hard against his chest, letting him know that someday death would come for him as well and defying him to be as courageous as she was. He was not. He was not scared of being dead but was terrified of the pain he would feel when it was time to cross the line between one world and the other.

He dressed himself calmly. White shirt, gray sweatpants and bare feet. Back in bed, he checked his cell phone. He looked at some old pictures and said her name again and again until falling asleep.

She listened and she came. He could barely open his eyes but he could feel her there. She took his hand and pressed it with hers against his chest. She laid by his side and suddenly his legs were hers and their hips danced against each other. Air stopped being so necessary. He remembered how breath-taking she was in jeans and ballerinas and held the air inside his chest for as long as possible, because her perfume was in the air. When she kissed his neck, he gave it away and his lungs went numb. The air came out and never returned.