Saturday, February 21, 2009

In his essay, “The Exact Location of the Soul,” Dr. Selzer invites us into the operating room where he is to operate upon a young diabetic woman. Though treating his patient for many years, he was unable to trim away enough swollen blue leather, that is her putrid diseased flesh. The doctor writes:

At last we gave up, she and I. We could no longer run ahead of the gangrene. We had not the legs for it. There must be an amputation in order that she might live--and I as well. It was to heal us both that I must take up knife and saw, and cut the leg off. And when I could feel it drop from her body to the table, see the blessed space appear between her and that leg, I too would be well.

On the day of the operation, the surgeon who is no longer afraid to connect--to feel the pain of his patient--watches as drugs are administered and “the tense familiar body relaxes into narcosis.” He uncovers the leg and sees an unexpected sight:

There upon her kneecap, she has drawn, blindly, upside down for me to see, a face; just a circle with two ears, two eyes, a nose, and a smiling upturned mouth. Under it she has printed SMILE, DOCTOR. Minutes later I listen to the sound of the saw, until a little crack at the end tells me it is done.

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