Jane Armstrong

You are given a name for the dizziness and stumbling, the electrical parade marching up and down your spinal cord, the flashing lights behind your eyes. MS. You say the initials, but not the words. It's the best you can do.

There's nothing for it, you're told. Wait and see. Try to rest. Avoid stress.

At night, you lie awake and scowl in the darkness while your husband sleeps beside you. You're in it alone.

There's help, you're told. Something new. We don't know how it works, but we're sure it does. You can inject yourself. You're very lucky.

And you are lucky, of course. But it's a shabby sort of luck that finds you alone, sitting on the edge of the bathtub, loaded syringe poised above your prepped thigh. Your hand shakes; your breath quickens. You feel lightheaded and drop the syringe, spilling $250 dollars worth of recombinant DNA onto the bathroom rug.

"I'll give you the shots," your husband says and you laugh. He fears thermometers and blood pressure cuffs.

He goes slowly, afraid of hurting you. He has yet to attain the quick, dart-like thrust recommended in the patient information booklet. His needles tug your flesh, lance your bones. "Did it hurt?" he'll say.

And you'll say no.

He'll put a Band-aid over the bruise and the blood. He'll install you on the sofa with pillows and blankets and sit at your feet while you wait for the fever and chills and nausea. He'll kiss your forehead, your cheeks, your mouth. He says he'll kiss you no matter how weakened or muddled or crippled or blind. No matter what, he'll kiss you every time.

You rub the place still stinging on your arm.

You're in it alone. Except when you're not. 

JANE ARMSTRONG teaches creative writing at Northern Arizona University. Her work has appeared in North American Review, Beloit Fiction Journal, New Orleans Review, Apalachee Quarterly and elsewhere. She is an associate editor for Mississippi Review Web.