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Brian And Anne
A few years ago, Brian and I attended a series of mariage enrichment workshops. One of the assignments was for each of us to write the story of how we met, and then read them to each other. Our story is, I guess, 'historical fiction' particularly the dialog in Brian's half of it - my half is a more straightforward recollection.
What does the dog do when he catches the car? That old question ran through my mind as I put down our coffees, and sat down opposite her in our college student union. My mouth was dry, my tongue felt like an old dirty football, my palms were sweaty, and my heart was racing. She was opening her container of cream and stirring it into her coffee with no outward sign of concern. But I get ahead of myself.
I have been fascinated by female amputees for as long as I can remember. Actually, until I was an adolescent, male and female amputees interested me similarly. The one-legged woman at the bus stop when I was just five or six years old, the woman with only one arm who helped my mother with some volunteer work when I was seven or so, and the one-handed girl in my after-school music class are branded in my memory, as are dozens of encounters since. I had never managed to establish a real relationship, though, mostly because I was too ashamed and panic-stricken to function.
My two years at college had passed without so much as a distant sighting of a female amputee; I had long since scoured the university's library and medical library for material; and I was frustrated. And then, the first week of my junior year...
I was walking down the street with some friends when I heard the rhythmic click of some aluminum crutches off to my left. I looked over and there she was, coming down the steps of the bank: petite, shoulder-length straight blonde hair, an oxford-cloth shirt, a knee-length denim skirt, and only a right leg wearing a penny loafer. She was walking with another woman, and they turned in the direction opposite mine, and soon disappeared from view. Why, I wondered, did most 'sightings' occur in circumstances which prohibited pursuit and perchance an encounter? Two days later, I took a date to a play on campus. During intermission we got sodas at the refreshment stand in the lobby. I turned around after paying, and there she was again, this time in a tan short-sleeved sweater and a yellow chiffon skirt extending below the knee, wearing a sandal with a slight heel. Her left forearm was through the cuff of one of her crutches while she held the cuff of the other crutch in her left hand, her can of soda in her right hand. But I was with a date, and she was with four other students. Foiled again! I saw her again after the show, crutching out of the auditorium and down the path ahead of me, with a grace and assur ance that identified her as a veteran amputee.
Two weeks later, I was heading back to my dorm room in a hurry, needing to pick up an assignment I had forgotten and get to class. As I passed the ten nis courts below the dorm, there she was again, in a white tennis outfit with a skirt, playing skillful doubles with a crutch in the left hand and a racket in the right. As I steamed toward class a few minutes later, I reviewed the available data: She had to be a freshman, because I had never seen her before. She was clearly well-adjusted, active, and sociable. And her amputation was either well above the knee or at the hip, but since she had been wearing a skirt every time I had seen her, I still didn't know which. Finally, she did not appear to have a male around. The third time was initially the most maddening of all. I was reading a dense history assignment in one of the library's reading rooms, settled into an easy chair. Traditionally, this room was the quietest study space on campus, in which no one ever even whispered. I heard metallic clicks, looked over toward the door, and there she was again, coming through the door and across the room toward me! This time she wore a sneaker and some loose, cuffed shorts; though they were fairly short, no stump showed below the cuff on the left. She pulled up to a vacant chair about 20 feet away and half-facing mine, took her book bag off her shoulder and put it on the chair, and sat down, placing her crutches to the left of the chair before taking out a book and beginning to read.
Concentration on history was now impossible, of course, and I took advantage of her absorption in her book to look at her more closely. The left leg of her shorts was crumpled beneath her hip, showing that she had no stump. Her remaining leg was lean and muscular, and covered lightly with blond hairs as were her strong muscular forearms. Her figure was pleasant, though not dazzling, but her face was truly beautiful, with features which were almost Scandinavian, but pleasantly softer. I tried to read and frequently glanced toward her, but she took no notice of anything outside the book she was reading.
After about twenty minutes she stirred in her chair, and her left hand strayed down over her left hip. Still reading, she squeezed it. She massaged it thus for a few moments, before re-adjusting her position again and turning the pages of her book. I looked closely at the title, and saw that it was one I had read for a freshman history course myself. I was now a soul in torment: dry mouth, thick tongue, tremulous, and with an erection that threatened even the sturdy seams of my Levis. I looked at my watch: 3:00. It could be a long time before she had to go anywhere. I knew I was going to have to pee very soon, but had the whole after noon for studying. I wasn't getting anywhere with the history, and the economics as signment I had brought along was no less dense. I didn't want to miss a chance to talk to her. I dreaded a chance to talk to her. I had to study. I couldn't study. I had to pee, but if I left she might depart while I was away. That would be terrible, that would be a relief. Finally, my bladder won, and I put down my book, got up, and left the room.
I returned just a couple of minutes later, and felt a surge of disappointment when I entered the room and saw no head over the back of her chair and no crutches beside it! I resumed my seat, and with relief saw her book open on her seat, and her book bag in front of the chair. I eagerly anticipated the prospect of seeing her return, and a few moments later she came through the door; opening it with her right hand, then quickly gripping the right crutch handle and setting the tip against the door as a door stop, and moving through. She swung towards me, and noticed my attention; she smiled briefly at me in return, resumed her seat, and burrowed back in to her book. This time she had her right leg 'crossed,' so that her ankle and foot hid her hip from view.
Another hour or so crawled by; I slogged distractedly through ten pages of history and another five pages of economics. Finally the young lady closed her book, scribbled several lines in a notebook, and began replacing things into her book bag. This was it, I told myself, now or never. I put my own books away as she stood, put her book bag over her shoulder, picked up her crutches, and started toward the door. I got there first, and opened it for her. She gave me a smile.
'Thanks!' she said.
'No problem,' I replied. We headed toward the lobby. Through my dry mouth I said
'I see you're taking Clossen's seminar.'
'Yeah. It's tough already. I can't believe the amount of reading. Almost 500 pages this week!'
'Just wait until you get to the exam!' Now was the time. 'I'm Brian. What's your name?'
'I'm Anne. Where are you going?'
I was momentarily speechless at her question; I had never considered the possibility that she would ask it.
'Nowhere in particular. I thought I'd check my mail at the Union and then meet some friends for dinner.'
'I'm heading to the Union myself,' she said. 'Lets get some coffee over there, and you can give me the lowdown on this seminar.'
She led the way through the crowds in front of the Union, and I watched her graceful progress with fascination as she crutched across the court and down the stairs to the snack bar. She went over to a small table in a corner while I went to get the coffee and two donuts. She was flipping through her book again as I returned, and closed it as I put her coffee in front of her and sat down.
'So, tell me about this course,' she said. 'I'm thinking I might be in a bit over my head.'
'That's what old Clossen wants you to think,' I replied, and proceeded to dilate on the course. Soon we were having an extremely enjoyable conversation: she was very articulate, smiled beautifully, and had a gloriously musical laugh. She was a wonderful listener and an even more interesting talker. More than an hour flew by. I had relaxed, almost forgetting in the course of our talk that she was an amputee. Finally, she looked at her watch and said 'Wow, it's after five thirty. We've both got friends to meet.' She bent over to get her crutches, and I felt my tension rising again.
'If you don't mind my asking, what happened to your leg?' I asked finally, after swallowing hard.
'I had cancer when I was eleven,' she replied, remaining seated with her left arm draped over the tops of her crutches. 'My knee had been sore for about a month, and then one day I fell during recess and broke my leg. I was put in traction in the hospital, but I knew something was up when my parents came back from a long talk with the doctors looking as though they'd been crying. I had my amputation two days later, and then about a year of chemotherapy. I've been fine ever since.'
'Have you always used crutches?'
'Now I do, yes. I have my prosthesis in my closet, because my parents insisted I bring it - my mother said I might want to wear it if I met a guy!' She smiled at me playfully. 'I got my first leg about two months after my surgery, and wore one pretty steadily for three or four years. But it got harder and harder to get a comfortable one and to be able to do things with it.'
'Why was that?'
'Well, my leg's off at the hip. That means I've got two free joints in a prosthesis, which makes it very awkward. It attaches with a plastic corset, which is hot and uncomfortable. It's heavy. And I was getting my, uh, female padding, which made a good fit and control even more difficult. So I used it less and less, until I decided I wasn't going to use it at all anymore when ninth grade started.'
'What did your parents think of that?'
'Oh, we had a terrible fight! They tried persuasion, and bribery, and dire warnings, but I just became more determined to leave it in the closet. To make peace, I agreed to get fitted one last time with a state-of-the-art leg three years ago, but I never used it.' She smiled at me gently. 'We'd better go.' she said as she stood and swung away from the table.
As we walked across the quad I said 'I'd like to go out with you Friday night.'
'I'd like that very much. How about the movie and a snack afterwards?'
'Wonderful. I'll pick you up at 7:30.' And we parted.
We had a series of low-key dates after that: movies, plays, coffeehouses, and lots of walking and talking. I gradually relaxed in her presence, and she remained as comfortable as she'd always seemed. She was a remarkable person: very bright and very active, an enthusiastic cyclist and swimmer, a decent tennis player, and she had tried 'three-track' skiing for the first time the previous winter and had loved it. About three weeks after we first met, she arranged that she would pick me up before going to hear a folksinger at a local coffeehouse. I opened the door of my room to her knock, and there she was, dressed in jeans, on two legs. She entered the room with that lurch ing gait of a hip amputee, and gave me a quick kiss. I must have looked as surprised and disappointed as I felt, because con cern briefly flashed across her face, followed by a look of fond bemusement. She gave me another quick kiss on the cheek, and said
'I'm running a bit late. Let's go by my room, and I'll slip into something more comfortable and we'll go.'
She turned and we walked hand-in-hand as she lurched asymmetrically beside me. That was nice! But her awkwardness and obvious discomfort were not. I was puzzled, but didn't know how to ask what was going on. We reached her room, and a few minutes later I heard the click of crutches and Anne returned, the left leg gone, the empty leg of her jeans pulled tightly around her hip and tucked into her waistband behind her.
Another week went quickly by. We were having lunch and dinner together every day by this time, and I was growing fonder of Anne by the minute, though I still tingled with anxiety in her company. It took only a couple of weeks for our friends to identify us as a couple, and I was relieved that no one seemed to see me as abnormal for dating an amputee - -something I had deeply dreaded. That is, no one except one guy in my suite, Herb. He made a couple of insulting comments about my having to 'settle for a factory second' before two of my other roommates, both of whom thought Anne was terrific, blew him out of the water. He became fairly gracious after that. But the confusion of intense emotions was becoming exhausting. We had a date for one Friday evening in mid-October to go to a jazz concert. Returning to my room after dinner, I found a large brown envelope, addressed in her hand, that had been slipped under my door. I opened it, puzzled and worried. Inside I was surprised to find a copy of Penthouse with a note clipped to the cover which said 'Look at page 14,' followed by a 'smiley' face. I had never looked through a Penthouse, having spent my adolescence looking at the big breasts in Playboy. Curious, I turned to the page, and there was a series of letters under the headline Monopede Mania, describing relationships with amputees and their unusual beauty. At the bottom of page 17, after the last letter, was another clipped note, which said simply '8 o'clock! remember!' and another smiley face. This unleashed an enormous flood of powerful emotions: overwhelming relief was the strongest, that she had deduced my unusual interest and didn't mind, and also that I was not the only person in the universe with similar tastes. I also felt some embarrassment, though, and anxiety at having been 'found out.' At 8:00 I knocked on her door, and heard her musical 'Come in!' I entered, and she hopped over to me and gave me a hug and a firm long kiss. She was dressed in her favored outfit, an oxford-cloth shirt, skirt, and penny loafer. The room was softly lit, the overhead light out, the curtains drawn, and a piano concerto came from the radio.
'I've changed our plans,' she said simply. 'There are some things we need to talk about.'
She hopped back a couple of steps, unsnapped her skirt and removed it, tossing it onto a chair, then did the same with her shirt. She was wearing a short leotard, cut high at the hips, and oh, was she beautiful! She had the lean, softly muscular physique of a swimmer, and her leg was gorgeously shapely. Her smooth round left hip was fully displayed. She motioned for me to sit on the bed as she said
'It's time for you to stop being bashful and me to stop being coy. A friend from home sent me that Penthouse last week, thinking I'd be interested, and the penny dropped. No, don't worry, I'm really fond of you and I'm flattered that you think my physique is beautiful. So when I greeted you with my prosthesis on the other night, it was a test - -you know I hate wearing the thing. You passed!
'And then it occurred to me that sending you the magazine would show you that I'd uncovered your, umm, Šsthetic standards, and that it was okay with me, and that you aren't alone, all at the same time.'
I looked up at her as she hopped over to me and took my hands; my eyes were moist with relief, admiration, and fondness.
'You're so sweet!' was all I could say. She smiled and bent over to kiss me, then straight ened, let go of my right hand, and turned her left hip toward me.
'Here's what my stump looks like. Go ahead, it doesn't bite! I call it my stump for lack of a better word, even though there's really no stump there. Here, put your hand underneath it.'
I did as she instructed; her skin was cool and smooth, the flesh of her stump a curious combination of firmness and softness. Her buttock curved beautifully around onto her hip, without an intervening leg. A thin white scar ran diagonally from the crest of her hip to just beside the wisps of pubic hair visible from under her leotard.
'It's not really sensitive,' she said, 'except at a couple of places along the scar.'
I took my hand away and she gently probed her scar with her fingers. 'Here - -ow!... and here,' she said, indicating one point toward the inside of her stump and another at the far outside end of the scar. 'It also hurts when I press too hard over where the joint was.'
'What does it feel like when you press there?' I asked.
'Along the scar I get kind of electric jolts,' she replied, 'some times just in my stump but some times in my phantom too. When I press on the middle it's just kind of a deep discomfort, hard to describe.
'She turned, sat on my lap, and put her right arm around my shoulders, kissing me quickly.
'The day I met you, in the library, I saw you massage it. What was that about?' I asked.
'Those sensitive spots in my stump tend to act up a few days before my period or when the weather's changing,' she replied, 'and some gentle massage quiets things down.'
I put my right hand gently over her stump again and gently massaged it, absorbing the new sensations.
'What does this feel like?' I asked.
'It feels like you're massaging my stump!' she said with a quick smile. 'Actually, having my stump touched felt really weird for the first few months after my amputation. When I put my hand over it, it felt like I was touching the inside of my thigh and the outside at the same time, with nothing in between except a really sensitive scar that gave me phantom jolts. Then things quieted down with the scar, and I got used to not having a leg there. So now it just feels like my stump.'
She settled deeper into my lap, and put her head on my shoulder. 'Do you like feeling it?'
'I do. It's very...arousing. How does it feel for you?'
'Well, it doesn't turn me on, but it doesn't turn me off either. I really like having you touch me. You're welcome to my stump so long as you pay attention to my other erogenous zones, too!'
'Any particular place you'd like me to start?'
'Well, how about beginning with my foot and leg?' She sat on the bed, then stretched out, her head on her arms. 'They get a workout, you know. Then we can work our way upstairs, so to speak.'
And that's how all of this began.
I grow fonder of you every day, and even when we are having one of our occasional rough patches, I love you for the dedication you have always had to our togetherness, and your willingness to confront difficulty squarely. You still seem to know me better than I know myself, so much of the time! Here we still are, after fourteen years of knowing each other, ten years of mariage, and two (!) kids. I can hardly wait to learn all of the things we still have to learn from and about each other.
It amazes me that compatible people ever find each other - -the odds seem so strongly against it. Yet here we are.
I wasn't particularly looking for a man when I got to college. I had had a few boyfriends in high school, and several dates that hadn't gone any farther. I had gotten over the cramping self-consciousness that had gripped me when I decided in ninth grade that I wasn't going to wear a prosthesis and pretend to be 'normal' anymore, and when I became comfortable with myself, others seemed to become comfortable with me.
But with my friends, female as well as male, I felt a certain lack of communication. They talked to me and treated me as though I was their big sister. I was bothered because everyone wanted me to listen to their problems, but no one seemed to understand mine. Now I realize that since I had gone through cancer and chemotherapy and an amputation and had thought a lot about death and my identity by that time, I was a lot older than most of my classmates, so to speak.
Physically, things were often awkward, too. My crutches got in the way of holding hands while walking, but there wasn't much physical contact even when I was seated with a boy - -probably that 'big sister syndrome' again. I had pretty much given up on men when I went to college, but inside I wanted someone to consider me pretty and attractive and be able to both talk and listen.
So one day a few weeks into my freshman year I decided to try out a lounge in the library that was supposed to be quiet, comfort able, and scholarly - -unlike my dorm. When I entered the room, I saw this guy watching me, not in an unpleasant way, but watching. He was clean and neat and looked nice (not to be taken for granted in the 70's!), and it was funny the way he was trying to look as though he wasn't looking at me! Now, I have been a connoisseur of stares for a long time. There's the 'tut-tut' stare of the sympathetic old lady; the hard know-it-all stare of some one who's going to come up to me and tell me either that Jesus will give me my leg back or that their second cousin has a prosthesis that is - surely - right for me; the harmlessly curious stare; the lewd stare that is often accompanied by a demeaning wisecrack; and the innocent, curious, fascinated, somewhat fearful stare of small children. This man's stare was like that, but mixed with subtle touches of admiration and longing.
As it happened, the only chair in the room was the one closest to his, and I settled myself into it and took out my books. I was aware of his continued examination of me, and his continuous, shuffling restlessness as he tried to concentrate on his work. I was curious now, myself: who was this guy, and was it possible that his interest in me could become more than superficial? I resolved to try to interact with him, but the strict rules of that lounge prohibited any talking or even whispering, so I was going to have to wait for him to leave.
After an hour or so he became particularly restless, and with a sigh put down his book, stood, glanced briefly at me and left the room. Since his books were still by his chair, I knew he would be back. I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to visit with nature, and did so, also leaving my book open on my seat. There were other brief glances in my direction as I moved toward the door, my crutches clicking and creaking, but none that compared with the steady gaze of my neighbor.
When I returned, his face illuminated, and I smiled back. We both settled to work (sort of), and after a while I put my things away and got up to leave. I was pleased to have him follow me, and then step ahead of me to hold the door; but then he seemed absolutely tongue-tied.
He finally lobbed me a soft question about the reading I was doing, and I decided to take the initiative by inviting him to have coffee with me.
Brian was a dear. He listened intently, spoke nicely, and wasn't patronizing. He looked at me in a wonderful way, and I felt valued and attractive. Clearly he wasn't put off by my one-leggedness, and I never considered then that he might be attracted by it. He only asked me how I had lost my leg when I picked up my crutches as we were getting ready to leave, at which point we were real friends and it seemed entirely appropriate. I noticed, though, that he seemed terribly nervous and flustered as he asked.
And so Brian and I met, and from that afternoon onwards we spent almost all of our free time in each other's company. We spent hours going places together and talking to each other. It wasn't the 'brother-sister' sort of talking I had had with previous boyfriends, either; with Brian I could talk about almost anything, and he would really listen. He was really interesting to listen to, himself.
Neither of us has ever been very adventurous sexually, so we weren't exactly clutching at each other and leaping into bed. We enjoyed hugs and kisses and caresses, though, and I began to feel physically as well as psychologically comfortable with Brian. I noticed that he tensed when ever my crutches got in the way, though, and his hand never strayed over my left hip. I had also noticed how apprehensive he seemed whenever our con versation turned toward my one-leggedness: he discussed it willingly, but he was not relaxed. I began to worry that just as I had found someone I could really communicate with, the way to a fuller relationship was going to be blocked by my one-leggedness.
Before I had a chance to get seriously depressed about this, though, a small package came from a guy I had known well in high school, and had gone out with a few times, who had gone to a different college. In the package were two Penthouse magazines, and a note saying I would find some of the Forum letters interesting. Indeed I did, because under the heading Monopede Mania were a total of five letters describing how desirable women with amputations were. I was amazed to learn that this was so.
Then I wondered: How about Brian? I decided that either he was attracted to me generally and my one-leggedness was a negative, or he was attracted to my one-leggedness along with the rest of me, but was nervous about how I might react to such an attraction. I badly wanted to learn which was the case, but couldn't figure out a way. It came to me in the middle of a very dull calculus class.
That evening we were supposed to go hear a folksinger, and we had arranged that I would pick him up. For the first time in years, I dragged my prosthesis out of the closet (I had taken it to college in preference to listening to my mother nag me), cursed as I pulled jeans over it, and put it on. If Brian was uneasy about my being an amputee, I thought, he would relax a bit when I had two legs. On the other hand, if he saw my single leg as a plus, he would be disappointed. Either way, it might stimulate some useful con versation about the issue. I allowed five extra minutes to get from my dorm to his, and I still arrived a few minutes late, and a bit breathless. I knocked, he opened the door with a beautiful light in his eyes, and then as I stepped (or rather lurched) into the room he looked momentarily bewildered and his face fell. I was delighted: this meant that all of me - -including the part of me that wasn't - -was fine with him. Before he could ask what was going on, I kissed him, apologized for being late, and suggested that we go by my room so that I could take that accursed plastic leg off and get back on some nice comfortable crutches. On the way back to my room, he was even more wary than usual, and the look of pleasure on his face when I emerged from my room again with just one leg was marvelous to see. I waited for him to ask what was going on, but he couldn't seem to find the words to do so.
Thus, there remained only the problem of how to let him know I knew he was a monopede maniac, and that it was all right. I tried probing gently in conversation, but didn't get anywhere. Finally, I took one of the Penthouses, clipped a note to it referring him to the Monopede Mania letters, and reminding him that we had a date. I put it into a plain brown envelope and slipped it under his door.
Though we had planned to go to a concert that evening, I decided other things were more important. Our friendship was very deep, but physically some what distant. It was time for some physical intimacy, the prospect of which seemed to tense Brian terribly. It would have to start with getting past his anxiety about my missing leg. So I picked up my room, made the atmosphere as romantic as possible (not very, I'm afraid), and changed my clothes, putting on a new leotard whose left leg hole I hadn't gotten around to sewing closed yet. At the stroke of 8 o'clock I heard his knock at the door, and I opened it to see the most wonderfully adoring face I had ever seen, with moist eyes and a look of the most profound relief. I brought him in and after talking for a little while, stripped to my leotard and gave him a careful guided tour of my 'stump' (it actually isn't one, but what else should I call it?). He was so wonderfully loving and gentle that I knew, by the end of the evening, that I had found my lifetime partner.
Not that it has been easy much of the time. We have both worked very hard, on our careers and on our relationship and on being parents. One of his 'friends' mocked him for falling in love with a 'defective' woman, and that was upsetting for both of us. His father was a real pain in the neck until he got to know me, and figured out that I wasn't going to ruin his son's life. But generally it has been very, very good. In fact, knowing Brian is definitely the best thing about being one-legged.
In view of the fact that the events happened, no doubt, much as described, I think that it is fairer to think of the dialogue as being reconstructed from memory rather than as fictional.
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