Disarticulated Life

by William R. Soldan

Always that Child

It has become so important that you not forget that you quickly slip into the present tense. You were not that child. Always are and never were. As if remembering what can hardly be put into words, but trying, will somehow prove (to whom?) you existed at all. Exist at all.


Screams heard from the waiting room, not yours—you don’t hear yours—but hers as she pushes someone else into this world. You’ve not long known yourself and don’t know that you don’t know, and won’t. Even when you do.


The First Sign, 1988

Your kindergarten teacher starts sending you home with daily reports because you’ve been acting out. Disobeying. Being yourself.

You don’t know who else to be.

A scale from one to five: Fours and fives mean no discomfort but that which you feel inside; ones and twos mean the hand, the corner, the empty stomach; threes—threes are a gamble.

Your big sister—half sister—tries to help you prepare, holds the envelope up to the sun so that you might know your fate. But you never quite know, do you? And that much won’t change, even when so much does. This ritual will be the one by which you gauge so many things.

An envelope sealed tight, held against a blinding light.


Like Yesterday

A young girl blinds you with a handful of sand as you play in the park, and you will one day wonder why you remember this so clearly.

Another metric, perhaps. Another metaphor.

So many spend lives searching for just the right one.

And here it is. Sand in your face, your mouth, choking you as you grope in the dark.


No Grand Departure

Before you’ve had the chance to grow into anything it’s time to go.

Your mother has an apartment sale. We need the money, she says. To get where we’re goin’. And we just don’t have the room.

So you watch as strangers enter and leave and enter and leave, making low-ball offers and taking things, the twinkle of coins and the rasp of a few small bills telling you already what your life is worth.

The room you shared with your brother emptied, all but what can fit in the car. Not much. A small car. And your brother, gone. Your sister. And this home is not your home.


Past, Present, Future

You move in with a friend of hers, a peeling foursquare on a blind street overlooking the interstate. A man from her past. Before you. He has several large dogs and carries a gun under his left arm.

The city looks bombed out, cracked bricks and falling down buildings, mills ten years gone but still standing in the gash of low ground that cuts through the heart of it all.

You have to walk to the end of the block to catch the school bus. Sometimes your mom walks with you and bums cigarettes from the older kids hanging out behind the corner store with the grated windows and neon sign. She didn’t smoke. But now she does.

It will be many years before you find out that she tried to join the military shortly before you left to come here. They wouldn’t take her. Years before you wonder what exactly that would have meant, for you.


Water off a Broken Wing

Seven years old and you have your own house key. You know how to cook your own dinner. Most of the time she leaves you something to just heat up, but sometimes—

Nothing you can’t handle.

Just like you handle the unease daily. Of walking to school from another new place in a bad neighborhood, worse even than the last, kids on the news every night, shot dead over jackets and shoes.

Someday your wife will say, That wasn’t a thing that really happened, and you’ll resist the urge to point out her privilege. It was a thing. Happened every day. You’ll tell her to look it up. She’ll look it up and see and apologize. Why would I lie? I just thought— What? Just, you know how people exaggerate. Your love will understand, but your life lived will make it hard.


After the Hands

You have no history, none that you know of. One day you will wish to explore the absence, but want for a road through it. Part of you will feel robbed. Part of you will be too busy getting by to care.

You look for signs of connection. Between yourself and yourself. Yourself and this disarticulated life. Severed. You know them when you see them. But sometimes you don’t.

You find one in a line in a book. Others in broken things.

Your mother works herself into a new hip and is still on her feet. Emptying trash and vacuuming floors. Cleaning people’s shit from bathroom stalls. Invisible. She eats her lunch on the move because there’s just never enough time. She chases it with pain pills she can’t afford because she can’t afford to stop.

The metal in her leg makes her ache. Her back aches. Her hands. So stiff and inflamed she can hardly make a fist to shake at the sky. And when the hands go, what then? You’re sure she wonders as much as you, but she doesn’t complain.

Just keeps moving.



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5 Responses to “Disarticulated Life”

  1. Defenestrationism.net » Blog Archive » Disarticulated Life: Like Yesterday Says:

    […] read more of Disarticulated Life […]

  2. Defenestrationism.net » Blog Archive » Disarticulated Life: No Grand Departure Says:

    […] read more of Disarticulated Life […]

  3. Defenestrationism.net » Blog Archive » Disarticulated Life: Past, Present, Future Says:

    […] read more of Disarticulated Life […]

  4. Defenestrationism.net » Blog Archive » Disarticulated Life: Water off a Broken Wing Says:

    […] read more of Disarticulated Life […]

  5. Gary Kadlec Says:

    This is really poignant! The last section, After the Hands particularly touched me. Very well done!

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