Chop Off my Finger, or Remove my Heart
At some point my heart begun to stutter with every breath I took, but I didn’t want to replace the organ. Together, we have learned the intricacies of life. The difference between a daisy and a rose. We have learned how to keep going; to persevere through clots that wanted to block us from each-other. We have fought the demons in my brain and the monsters in my skin and the arrows through my chest. But losing my heart would mean losing my pain tolerance, leaving nothing to protect me from a loss. Like the loss of a marriage, or the loss of a wife. Or, the loss of a heart.
But every mother who has given her child up for adoption would understand, even better than I, why I choose to drive to the heart shop today.
When I get there a woman dressed in jean shorts and a buttoned-up red t-shirt can be seen inside. She is leaning against a counter, her long legs and arms positioned to pollute the air with her confidence. As I approach, her eyes quickly glance over my roughed-up jeans and safety vest, before radiating out like a spider who has caught a fly. She then turns around and bends across the desk to grab the clipboard and pen that rest on the far corner, before coming out of the shop to greet me.
“Hello there, may I help you with something?” she asks.
Her voice is husky in a way that leaves me twitching to hear more.
“I wish to sell my heart.”
“Well, of course, we have some of the finest hearts for you to upgrade to.” Her eyes draw out all my inner secrets. “And I’m sure I could give you a great deal for your old heart too.”
“I think you misunderstood me. I want to sell my heart, not trade it in.”
This time her eyes gaze over me slowly. Before, she looked at me like she was looking at a living room through a window, but now she could tell I am more of a basement kind of person.
“Well I’m sure we could find an arrangement, but I can’t offer a price without knowing what kind of shape it is in….” Her voice trails off as she takes a step forward, as if getting closer to me will invite me to open up.
So, I do. But I’ve already prepared my foyer to look as clean as it can be. I tell her about how my heart has been beating since the moment it started. It’s loyal like a brother; it will beat and beat through rain and snow and sickness and health. I tell her about its honesty too, about how it always beats at a rate that matches how I am feeling. It quickens at the start of love. It quickens even more at the loss of it. But most importantly, I tell her it loves in a way no heart has ever loved before and it never stops. It just keeps beating, and beating and beating.
But fooling a salesperson is like trying to fight a boxer, so she must know that there were weaknesses I dare not tell her about. But unlike a boxer, she’s seductive, unlike the way any other woman has ever been to me. She runs her fingers over my chest and asks me:
I stumble backwards at the touch of her hand.
“That’s it. That’s all of my heart.”
But she knows otherwise, and she takes her fingers and she wades her way through my blood and into the home I didn’t dare show anyone else, and she says:
I find myself unable to lie to someone so beautiful and taunting, so I tell her about the arrow stuck deep within my heart. I tell her about how the entry wound was patched up by an untrained army medic who had his heart broken as well. But rather than fixing the clumsy job he made, I hide the scar with as much skin and as many smiles as I can.
Then I tell her the worst part: that every time my heart beats the arrow wiggles just a little bit, keeping me alive, but also reminding me of the pain that life has brought. I tell her that its beating has grown into a chant: “I am alive. I want to die,” it says.
I am alive. I want to die.
Her hand, which has been dancing along my bloodstream, withdraws. The warmth of my blood is replaced with a stream of shame. Her lips, once rosy red, draw themselves into a thin, pale line.
“No dealer will ever put a price on an already pierced heart,” she says.
I feel her stern but pitiful glare, but cannot look up.
“You know an arrow-pierced piece of art is forever owned by the artist,” she says, “I cannot free you. They call it He-art for a reason.”
I do not need to look up to know she has gone back to lean against the desk, waiting for another fly to land in her trap. This conversation was just a job for her, but for me it’s a reminder.
I leave the shop in a cab. When I walk into my home the sound of Call of Duty rings through the house. My son must be home. I’d call to him but getting a response would be unlikely. Instead, I go to my bedroom and exchange my sweater for a t-shirt. Then, hesitantly, I open up the top drawer and pull out a wooden box. As I open it I can hear the moan of the violin that is engraved on top. Inside the box, a golden ring sits outlined against rich blue fabric that works as padding on the bottom.
I sigh, and look down at my finger.
It was finally time to become someone else’s work of art.
Chop Off my Finger, or Remove my Heart