Author: Steven Zeldin

Part of me is missing.
My friends, my family, they try to poke fun at it to improve my mood.
Yet something that was attached to me—that was me—is now an object sitting and rotting out there in the world.
I must replace that part of myself.
I have no idea what to do.

My doctors, they tell me—thankfully—that someone my age near me has had a stroke.
His brain is dead. But his arm isn’t.
They’ve done it for decades, they say. His arm could be mine.
It could. But I don’t know if it should.
“An arm is an arm,” they say. But that’s not true.
Mine was mine, and his is his.

Other doctors promise different things.
My nerves are intact. Little time has passed.
Replace it with a machine, they say. A mechanical prosthetic.
My brothers grin at me. “You could have a robot arm! We’re jealous.”
They are not jealous.
A perfect substitute for a part of me is not me.

When I complain too much, my parents lose their temper.
I am one of the “lucky ones”.
Decades ago, both choices were worse.
Prosthetic arms were plastic tidbits. They couldn’t move or even feel.
Transplanted arms had issues, too. Nerve regrowth was slow and stunted.
Before that, still, people just had to deal with it.
But I don’t feel lucky. The people who come after me will be lucky.

Sometimes it seems like the transplanted arm makes less sense.
“Nature is the best engineer. Its creations beat knockoffs.”
But nature is not an engineer. It is a random process that accidentally stumbles across function.
Plus, robot arms are still natural. Nature makes us, we make the arms.
The transplant arm’s a bit longer, a bit lighter. It doesn’t even look like me.
I would be attached to a part of a corpse.

Yet sometimes the prosthetic seems worse.
Someone hacked into my computer the other day. They posted vulgar things on the web.
What if someone hacks my arm?
“They wouldn’t. Top-notch security”, my doctors say.
That’s what the techies said about my laptop.
Someone could hack my arm and punch my mom. Or me.

Honestly, I don’t know. Maybe I’ll never know.
Yet I need to decide soon.
The transplant would feel more natural. The prosthetic could lift more weight.
I met a guy who has one of both. He’s happy. I feel bad for him.

I wish that, like some axolotl, I could regrow my limb from the nub.
Maybe, in the future, we could.
I envy those that will come after me.
I am trapped in the past of a better tomorrow.