The pandemic made me realize that my brain is already a cyborg

Hard to say when my brain turned cyborg. I noticed it during the pandemic. We were freaking out all over the world. I was changing legs. My old leg, an Ottobock C-Leg, started to make whirring noises. I could hear my leg thinking, or whatever the word for when our machine parts get jobs done.

I went to the prosthetist and he told me about a new device called Freedom Innovations Plié Knee. Of course, they would name the knee after some fucking ballet move.

The selling point? It had removable batteries. I might have an extra battery in my purse. I would no longer need to plug into a wall for a charge.

Why was the prosthetist enthusiastic? Money, probably. But he didn’t say that. They never say that. He told me I’d love the new leg — they always say that — and that it would be lighter. Much lighter.

I weigh 100 pounds, so any excess weight from the machine is important.

The Freedom Innovations salesperson gave me a gift: a t-shirt, a key ring.

By the next date, she had no idea why La Plié was messing things up. Why did I fall on my concrete driveway while receiving the mail? Why did the leg not understand the tilts and declines?

I imagine she attributed the fall to “user malfunction”. This is how prosthetic companies say, “It must be your fault. The technology is good.

I left the home, in these first months of the pandemic, for the appointments of the legs. I did all the grocery shopping — the grocery store, the gas station — but I didn’t get out of the car. My submissive entered. I sat in the car with one leg I didn’t like and my box of chronic pain pills. I was born disabled from Agent Orange. I am an unwilling fighter in two wars: Vietnam and the war on opioids. A war made me suffer; the other war threatens to keep me there.

I watched people walk in and out of the store. How easily they walked. This one in a hurry, quick, enter and exit. This one drags, stops to put on his mask, looks at his truck.

Would I get used to the new leg? Did it just take practice? Why did everything hurt more?

For the first time, changing legs, I had a cyborg mate. I hired the cyborg Amy gaeta be my assistant. She is a doctoral student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. There is so much that we don’t have to explain to each other because we both occupy the cyborg subject position. We can therefore avoid the convos of bullshit on access, access, always access and become theoretical.

I’m always Yoshiko Dart’s head: If you have the money, hire people with disabilities.

It was only because I was in conversation with another cyborg that I realized that my brain was already a cyborg. Amy is autistic. She studies drones, so our conversations have often led to how war technology is an extension of the human brain, neurodivergent and neurotypical thought patterns, and why it’s hard to have a conversation when you’re in pain.

So I already knew that my body was a cyborg. I knew this since 2010, when I published “Become Cyborg” in The New York Times. It was even getting easier to explain my cyborg personality to anyone.


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Margarita B. Bittner