The Heart Is Not a Metaphor When It Leaks


We wake breathing into each other’s mouths whatever remaining air roped us through the night. I’ve learned the heart is not a metaphor. I’ve stopped using the heart for anything but the muscle it is.


Your doctor draws your muscle on the whiteboard with a dying blue marker & it looks more like a fist or a water park with slides. I follow the arrows that are in your heart—their direction shows me why your lungs fill with fluid. They show me why you won’t be at our daughter’s graduation—why you are afraid to have a daughter. A daughter equals your fear of being reckless.


I want a daughter (with you).


A day after the appointment you text me at 9:16pm: Hi there Sweet Biscuit. What are you up to? I kind of would like to just have tonight to myself. I love you. I want to always be with you. I am wanting to feel this space alone for the night. Been working since I got home so I haven’t done any of the real things yet (cry, write).


I respond: Okay. I hope you are doing the real things you want to do. If you change your mind & just want a warm body afterward, to spoon you when you sleep, lemme know. So I picture you on your bed surrounded by striped blankets. I train myself to follow the blue arrows in your heart & not look away—to hand the doctor a new marker when the ink runs out.


From my bed I send you a photo I took last weekend when you climbed this tree & stared down at Otter Creek:



& I write: I love how the only red leaves are the ones traveling up your spine. I would not write that they look like ripe hearts because we cannot pick them. I have never been a reckless person.


In my head, at all the people who so flippantly use this muscle to stand in for emotion, I yell: screw your broken hearts; screw your heartlessness; screw your half-heartedness; screw your achy-breaky hearts! I’m being dramatic but sometimes I need these moments of internal drama to feel the pain of what I cannot fix, to remind myself that it is not hard, but it is sad, to love someone who will leave you. The definitiveness of blue arrows shakes in me like a fistful of red-headed leaves.


I sit across from you while you lie on the doctor’s table: you are a mountain range. But your heart is not a nautilus nor love’s dysfunction. The doctor turns your pacemaker off & tells you that for a brief moment you will feel the beats your own body makes & in that moment you look calm, your face softens: you pulse quietly.


When you sit up again you are the tree, the boy in the tree, the red leaves on the boy’s spine, & the creek unburdened by what it means to leak.   

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