Thursday, November 24

what happened to my arm

I'd just started two loads of laundry at the local mat, sat down to mind my own business of reading Tom Robbins' Another Roadside Attraction, when the woman sitting two seats down said:

"What happened to your arm?"

Let's just stop there for a moment. This question, this basic, yet strangely puzzling question has been posed to me so many times in my life, it's afforded great opportunity for analysis. I will here unload a lifetime of said question-inspired pondering.

"What happened to your arm?" The question itself actually presupposes that something happened, that my arm was acted upon in some way or, as I've concluded is more likely the case, is presumed missing altogether. In fact, there is no logical way for me to answer that question as stated. As far as I know, nothing "happened" to my left arm, it just developed as it is along with the rest of my body, and here we are. And if the questioner is suggesting a post-natal occurrence, I wonder if they suspect I was the victim of a magic trick gone awry.

Therefore, when asked what happened to my arm, I am tempted to answer simply, "Nothing." Judge and see if that is not the proper response. I am also tempted to say, "I lost my arm in a climbing accident," as my best friend once told her younger brother, to which he responded with sympathy and solemnity, "Really?" This one incident tells me that logic is not always necessary to assuage curiosity.

Yet, consistently, this is the exact question posed, with exactly that phrasing, over and over again. There is one derivation; I am sometimes asked how I broke my arm, but that is even more of a brain boggle. Has anyone ever known, in the history of the world, of one case in which a broken arm turned into a much smaller fin with three webbed fingers? Sorry to get so graphic there, but it was necessary. I have to say, at least, that I am impressed with the open-mindedness which I sometimes discover. Apparently, some people still believe that indeed anything is possible.

However, in my experienced reality, I find it more practical to answer the essence of the question rather than the literal implication. [No, I did not study philosophy in college because it made my brain hurt; I chose the lesser of two evils and went with English Literature, which makes my brain hurt a little less.] So, to answer "What happened to your arm?," I always say with a smile, "Oh, I was just born that way." 

But I digress. Back to the local laundromat. Here is where the story takes an unexpected turn....

The woman then said, "Can I see it?"

Ok, a little unorthodox, but I don't put up much of a fight. I opened my jacket buttons and pulled Finneas out, holding him out on my palm like a minnow fish platter.

"Can I touch it?," she asked.

Well, we've come this far...

"Oh, it's so cute!," she cooed, stroking Finneas with her index finger.

She was so excited, when her washing partner returned, she asked him, "Hey, did you see her arm? It's so cute." She then coaxed me to show him. I obliged, of course.

Now, believe it or not, comes the bizarre part of the story.

"Do you have any makeup?," she asked.

Ask me about my arm. Ask to touch my person. But a total stranger asking to borrow my makeup? That's where I draw the line. Thankfully, I'm not the sort of girl to carry makeup on my person. Plus, there's really no need for it at the laundromat where there was a guy literally doing his washing in his boxers, presumably because he'd run completely out of clean trousers.

After my admirers went outside for a smoke, I smiled a stifled giggle, shaking my head. Ironically, I suddenly felt very normal. But I have to say, for all the times I've repulsed onlookers and sent babies screaming to their mommies, it's gratifying to know some people see with different eyes; emphasis on the different.

Aren't we all just another roadside attraction?

But the next time someone asks what happened to my arm, I'm gonna say a miniature Chihuahua Terrier chewed it off.

It could happen.