“I’m falling apart,” Lizzie says.
It’s true. Last night I found her ring finger on the floor by the bathroom sink, the gold band catching my eye as I brushed my teeth. Otherwise I might have missed it—her skin tone blends so well with the tile pattern.
I picked up the finger and rinsed it, then slid off the ring and dropped it in her jewelry box. This morning, after making the bed, I saw a lump beneath the covers; I pulled back the sheets and there it was, her left foot, still warm in a pink cotton sock.
I try to be encouraging.
“You can still do a lot with one foot,” I tell her.
There is a lot of crying in our house these days.
During lunch Lizzie’s nose falls into the soup. I rescue it with the salad tongs and wash it in cold water. I have a red Igloo cooler in which I keep all of her parts. I save everything. I believe in reconstruction.
I always thought she was so strong. She acted like she didn’t need anyone, ever, certainly not me. Sometimes she’d walk ahead of me on the street as if we were strangers, yet I still fell in love with her. After three months we ran away and pretended to be newlyweds. On the streets of Vancouver she slept in the sun on an old park bench, her head nestled in my lap. I stroked her hair and woke her with a kiss, our lips magnetic and bright.
In bed she pulls away from me now. We haven’t made love in months, maybe years, but I’ve never lost my desire for her. When she undresses I sneak glances. I have a keen imagination.
It started with her fingernails. She lost three in one day and the rest in a week. At first we suspected a vitamin deficiency but after three weeks of supplements the nails failed to regenerate and her big toe fell off next.
I constructed numerous theories blaming her parents or her job or a cabal of Wall Street bankers but she dismissed them all until a single suspect remained.
“It’s your fault,” Lizzie says. “You ignored things and now look what’s happened.”
“I love you,” I say—my mantra.
I come home late and Lizzie greets me by the door, her eyes dewy and raw. She hugs me, and then hands me her ears.
“I’m sorry,” I say, but I don’t think she hears me.
Every relationship has its blunders and grievances. So much relies on interpretation. I write out a sticky note and tape it to the fridge: Dear Lizzie, the human mind has a great capacity for forgiveness.
I go upstairs and kiss her goodnight. Her lower lip waits for me on the nightstand beside her contact lenses and a half-empty bottle of Lexapro.
There are days when Lizzie doesn’t lose anything and I think perhaps we will make it. We’ve tried dozens of remedies. For a week she drank nothing but green tea and dandelion extract. I’ve massaged her skin with a paste of red wine and St. John’s Wort. Her MD had success mending her with lasers and stitches, and for a while she seemed whole again. We held our breath, hoping it was over, but five days later I found a finger on the coffee table and a toe in the shower.
This I have noticed: pieces never fall off when others are around. With her friends she is happy and light; her giggles fill the air like butterflies in a Disney cartoon. With me she is angry and morose, but I keep hoping for the best. To show her my love I rent the honeymoon suite at a posh hotel, buy her pretty lingerie and decorate the room with roses and scented candles, scour the love poems of Pablo Neruda to find the perfect bon mot to pry open her heart.
But the honeymoon suite stays empty.
“This is awful, it has to end,” Lizzie says.
“But I love you.”
“Can’t you see what’s happening?” She shakes her head, her eyelashes falling like dark snow. “We always knew this was a mistake.”
I list the many kind and loving things I have done for her but by now they are meaningless. If this were a television show on TV Land a wise father played by Tom Bosley or Robert Reed would set his arm around my shoulder and identify the lesson: loving someone is never enough.
Her friends arrange a trip to Florida for the healing powers of the sun. I go online and find a Facebook group of men in similar situations. Apparently Lizzie and I are not unique. Sometimes the men meet at Starbucks and share photographs and spouse parts. There’s a blogger in Istanbul who recommends a home cloning kit available through E-bay for under a thousand bucks.
If you have enough cells, you can bring back almost anyone.
I stand in the hallway watching as her friends pack her suitcase and carry Lizzie toward the door. “I love you,” I shout, but the only response is the front door slamming shut. Flakes of skin dust the hardwood floor like confetti from a long, gruesome parade.
As I walk upstairs and crawl into our bed, I understand why Lizzie never said goodbye. Lying on the comforter is her tongue, pink and moist.
I hold the tongue in my hand as I drift into sleep—imagine it growing in the warm Petri dish of my palm, the cells multiplying and dividing until piece by piece, Lizzie comes home.