Some mornings, in the half-light of dawn, Leti saw hope for the future. But the hope was distant and far off. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be. Who knows?
At 29, he was dismayed by the accident the caused him to lose his leg. His other leg, however, worked fine and quickly learned to take up the slack. Learning to live without a leg is a lot easier than learning to live without a thumb, or memory. Alzheimers, he quipped, would be eminently more difficult. He said there were things he missed about having two legs. Like the ease at which he used to climb stairs or the free flowing way he and his friends played soccer. I guess it is no longer possible to kick the dog with only one leg. This idea of being without a limb was distressing and weirdly liberating.
One becomes less inwardly focused and more attuned to the needs of others. People with disabilities are more acutely aware of the world. A curb without a cut. Every bathroom, hotel room, sound room and clubroom that isn't accessible is an as apparent as the blasting horn from a passing freight train.
What you are less aware of, he reminded me, was the idea of limitations. Limitations, like skin color and race, morph into artificial barriers of the mind that enslave and encircle.
Leti has never planned this. I mean who really plans to lose a leg. When someone asks you on your 19th birthday, "So, what will you be doing at 25,” no one says: "Well, I'll be learning to get around with only one leg."
When Leti came home over to watch the Duke game, he asked me: "What do you think they did with my leg." I thought: "Medical waste," But I lied and said I didn’t know. He looked around and started to cry. My heart, at that moment went broke, sensing the humiliation that only an amputee knows intimately: " Nerves are not your friends,’ he said. “I mean--they are but they aren't'. They tell you when pleasure is approached and they warn you of pain. Yet, they also lie and tell you that your legs needs to scratched, or there is a sharp pain in the ankle. You know it isn't true because that leg is gone, burned to a crisp in a furnace hotter than a thousand July's.”
Yeah, I thought, nerves are a lot like people. They mean well, they try their best, but they often lie to you. They don’t mean to lie. Leti looked at me and asked it I was OK. His abrupt question interrupted my fog of dreaming. I looked up and saw the Blue Devils were down by nine points. I smiled and snapped back to reality. Life goes on, I thought. One chapter closes and another begins. And so it goes, even for those of us who have two legs.