My husband’s disappearance starts with the pinky toe on his left foot. We’re not too sure when exactly it disappears because, really, how often do you notice your pinky toe? But one day, we’re lying in bed and his foot is peeking out from under the covers, and there it is. Or isn’t.
“Honey,” I say sleepily, “has your pinky toe always been gone?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Your toe. It’s gone.” I crawl out of the covers and to the bottom of the bed, pinching the space where his toe should be. Nothing but air.
He lifts his head up to see. “Huh. Weird. It’s always been there before.” He shrugs. “Pancakes?”
We’re at the table eating those pancakes—chocolate chip, my favorite—when I blink and I’m staring at the nick on the table from where his knife slipped last week rather than his index finger, which was covering it only a second ago. “That’s a little more important than your pinky toe,” I say.
He wiggles his other fingers at me. “Still got nine of them.”
The next day, he wakes up without a left ear, which means he can’t wear his glasses anymore. “Maybe you should stay home from work. People might be confused.”
“What’s that?” he says. “I can’t ‘ear you.”
When I come home from work, he’s lying on the couch, watching a soap opera, which he tries to hide by switching to ESPN as soon as he hears me come in. He also has no toes left. “Walking is harder now, but I can still manage.”
“I’m worried,” I say. “What happens if this continues?”
“I never was much to look at anyway.”
I laugh at the joke, but then I feel guilty. “Should we be laughing about this?”
“What else are we going to do?” he says, and I look at him. I know he’s scared and so am I, but his other index finger is fading and he’s right, what else are we going to do?
Before we go to bed, I remember our first date, when I rested my head on his shoulder on a park bench as he ran his fingers through my hair. I kiss those remaining fingers one by one in case they’re gone in the morning.
I wake up in the middle of the night and hear him in the bathroom, making the hiccupping sounds I know he makes when he’s crying but wants to do it quietly. “Honey?” I call as I get out of bed and open the door to the bathroom. He’s curled on the floor. “What’s wrong?”
He looks down and my eyes follow his. “Oh.” His penis is gone.
“This is too much,” he says.
“It’s okay. We didn’t want kids anyway.”
“Right.” But another hiccup escapes him, then another, and the tears keep leaking. “I can’t even joke about this.”
I stand there for a while, not sure what to say.
“Please go back to bed,” he says. “I’ll be better in the morning.”
“Are you sure?”
I bend over and kiss him on the forehead before I go.
When I wake after a few fitful hours of sleep, the bathroom door is still closed. I knock. “Honey?”
“I need help,” he replies. When I open the door, he’s on the floor, missing his right leg. “I can’t balance.”
“Come here.” I slide my arm around his waist. “Lean on me.” I help him back to bed and tuck him in. “I’ll stay home from work today, too,” I tell him.
“Make me laugh again,” he says, so I pull “The Invisible Man,” one of his childhood favorites, off the bookshelf and open it, knowing he’ll appreciate the pun. I can see him fade with every word, so I read slowly, drawing out each word to its full length. I make it take hours, but still it comes to an end. When it does, he’s missing his other leg. And an arm.
“I’m scared,” he says.
“I know.” I can see the blue swirls of the pillowcase through his forehead, but I don’t tell him that. I curl up next to him with my arm across his chest and feel it starting to disappear beneath me. My eyes close as I wait for my arm to sink to the covers. It doesn’t take long. When I feel cotton instead of skin, I open my eyes to look at him one last time.
“I love you,” his fading head says, the only part of him left.
I lower my lips to his, lingering even after I know there’s nothing of him left, spreading my heavy limbs into the spaces his once occupied until I’m sure I’ve soaked up every invisible atom he’s left behind.
Chelsea Hanna Cohen lives in Brookline, Massachusetts, with her fiancé and their two cats. She is a graduate of Emerson College’s MA in Publishing and Writing program and has previously been published in Microchondria II. She can often be found reading when she should be doing other things instead.
<– A Cautionary Tale for Young Deities, by Zach Lisabeth
2 thoughts on “Disappearing Act, by Chelsea Hanna Cohen”
That was simply beautiful.
Clever and well written.