Every morning when he wakes, he lies in bed and waits for one of his toes to twitch or spasm; the moment he feels one of them thrust forward, he gains courage to test his legs. He grimaces either way: one more day of walking, one more day until loss, one more trip to the sea. He says swimming in the ocean is as good a treatment as any for MS. It has to do with routine, he tried explaining to his wife, Martha. But the water’s so cold, she worried. It’s part of the routine, he said.
He knows salt water is useful when treating shallow cuts and flesh wounds, and that a high enough salt concentration provides buoyancy. In fact, he had once read about a woman who treated her skin disease by traveling to the Mediterranean twice year in order to float in the Dead Sea. Because of its salt content, it is impossible to sink there; everything floats; nothing can drown. But it is so thick with saline and brine, so packed tight with buoyant material, that within it, nothing can live.
Still, Walter imagines this woman. He imagines the warm water lapping against her splotchy flesh. He imagines her hair wrapped up in a bun, her arms extended and her legs reclined straight out, her on her back, the sun beating upon her eyelids, so that from within her head she does not see the black of her closed eyes, but instead the color of rust. He imagines her feeling of weightlessness, of restoration, of salt.
“What will you do when the winter comes?” Martha asked. “Huh? You thought of that?”
Though she did not share her speculation with Walter, she predicted he would lose control of his legs within the next few years. Already he had woken up with a tingling sensation in his shins, a harsh burn that could last for hours. Other times his vision would waver or his speech would skip and stutter—effects of degradation. . . . Read More.