Thursday, April 5, 2007

missing children

When my legs fall asleep I panic. I always have, and though I’ve known what this feels like my entire life, it is never familiar—I never know what to do.

And I can recall my father telling me that poor circulation is in my blood. Curious—my blood circulates poorly, because there is something poor inside its design. I think of those genes, those schematics compressed and reiterated, slowing down in my feet and condensing into pins and needles, weighing down my extremities. It’s numb, but I feel it so much more strongly now: its weight is new, alien, like it has grown suddenly into a giant’s foot. I can’t move, and I can’t articulate the deep sensation that stirs from the center, almost from the bone.

That blood isn’t moving. I wonder about the other things that live in it. The likelihood of heart disease, cancer, the slow and resilient deadliness that started somewhere in the unperceivable past, inched forward, a different kind of relative of mine waiting inside tender tissues my entire life.

My granduncle died of “ghost itch,” so they say. My dad has a photo of him inside his wallet, sitting in a wheelchair, missing his right leg because of advanced diabetes that in the Philippines went untreated for decades. He was a shoemaker, like my father’s father, his mother, his aunts and uncles and their mothers and fathers. He used to sit under a Banyan tree with a tiny hammer and tacks with heads the size of ladybugs. In the photo, the tree looks familiarly exotic, only there is a spot on its trunk worn from the backsides of my ancestors.

On the way home from the hospital, after his amputation, he said that he could so clearly hear the sounds of the cars, dragging their exhaust pipes, the skipping wheels of bicycles, especially the ones that had baseball cards fixed between the spokes of the back wheel. He said he could feel the wind on his missing leg through the open side window of the ambulance, later, through his bedroom window. The strange feeling of goose-pimples, the tiny hairs raising, the numbness we share, the terrible itch that’d kill him. He would describe many lingering senses in that long gone leg, even the cramps he would get in the knee just before stormy weather.

The feeling passes eventually, the pressure on my nerves subsides and the blood seems to flow normally, back on its course. I try and imagine a greater course, one outside of me. The one my brother has, the one my sisters would have had, their arteries and veins stretching beyond the body and forming children, filling them with our shoddy blood, circulating poorly. I can feel the itchy skin of children absent in the future, my future, but others’ also. The unrealized, infinite possibilities of sense—I feel the lack of the visual pleasures they might know, the taste for sweets, the sound of the radiator coming on, and the feeling of that numbness as well; pervasive, deep, given for all of us to bear.