It was a sunny September day, lacking the warmth of summer but agreeable. In a sportive way, she was dressed accordingly, the woman who caught my eye, wearing a bright red hoodie and slim fit jeans. Her white blonde hair in a ponytail made her look younger, and was probably meant to make her look younger too. Early forties was my guess, though, and I found her attractive in a natural way. No excess of make-up, a pretty face full of expression, sparkling blue eyes and a confident stance indicating she felt she looked good in those jeans, which she did. Her well-shaped buttocks deserved to be highlighted.
She was using crutches. Her outfit concealed nothing of her entire left leg being amputated. There was no stump, just the curve of her buttock continuing under the hip and the fit of altered jeans cloaking a legless roundness. It made a sharp contrast with her long, right leg standing on a high-heel pump in matching red, that, in turn, made a ladylike contrast with her sportive clothing.
I first noticed her because her phone rang. She stopped, searched her shoulder bag, snatched out a white iPhone 6, smiled when she saw who was calling and quickly answered. A good friend, telling her something she really liked. Her lively facial expression, frequent smiles and big, attentive eyes made that a good guess. A female friend too, I thought, judging from a chatty relaxedness.
Her being off guard enabled me to secretly observe her motion. Leaned against a wall for convenience, she let her legless left hip rest on the handle of her crutch. Locking the other between her arm and body freed the hand to hold her phone. There was a graceful self-evidence in how she coped with having just one leg for balance, suggesting she’d been an amputee for a long time already.
Bone cancer as a teenage girl. It crossed my mind and it made sense. An amputation this rigorous would likely have no other cause. I let my thoughts run free while staring from a safe distance, estimating her to be 42 now and guessing 12 to be the age when her leg was taken off. It would make her one-legged since my age 7, I calculated as I saw her laugh cheerfully, which made yet another contrast. The severity of an entire leg missing, the heart-rending emptiness beneath her left hip, and then her beaming smile, her totally seeming at ease with what she had been dealt with. It made her stance and altered jeans statements of not wishing to hide. It’s okay to look at me, I can’t help it but I’m living with it, and I won’t have it stand in the way of being happy, it appeared to say. And maybe this was my devotee-steered impression, nothing in her one-legged dexterity or expression suggested otherwise.
She hung up, put her phone back in the shoulder bag and routinely gripped her crutches. I watched the fascinating solitude of one leg doing her walking, in rhythmic alternation with the tinny clicking of her crutches. Her skill was flawless and experienced. An ease of motion totally accustomed to the absence of a left leg. My thoughts tried to envision how this would be for her, what 30 years of being amputated would do to her awareness of it. She was likely not even giving it a thought. Would she ever, still? Yes, in response to people looking at her, perhaps. But not as a conscious and continuous awareness of amputation. Missing a leg must have become natural for her, so much so that she wasn’t even missing it anymore. For that, the self-evidence of her body swaying between her crutches was too much the embodiment of perfect adaption. As it was splendidly elegant in its very particular way.
I didn’t follow her, respecting a privacy I felt I had already invaded somewhat. And so, I watched her turn left and disappear out of my sight.
Leaving her forever unaware she had just been found mesmerising.