Psychopomp Magazine Fall 2014 - Page 6

Julia Carey

Heart on a Sleeve

Echo

Mac has her heart on her sleeve. She was born that way, the organ pumps outside of her chest, the veins and arteries stitching her left arm to her torso. Mac can’t lift her left arm as a result. Her embraces are limited to only one side of her body, so she only gives half her love at one time. Her momma had carried twins, and when they cut her open to get them out, found them tangled together, Mac’s arm scooped into her sister’s chest, as if she had reached in after life itself, to steal what she needed. And her sister clung back, trapping Mac’s arm in desperation, as if to beg her not to leave, or take away her core. Even in utero, Mac fought, grappled, for what she was afraid to lose. And she won.

The arteries and veins are calloused, worn ropes pulsing with fluid, some violet, some bright red. There is a layer of skin over the muscle, just enough to protect it, but translucent. Each chamber clenches in rhythmic spasm, a soft whoosh of fluid passing through. A silent room does not stay silent when she’s there. The thumping and swishing is audible from several feet away. And then the whispers follow. She does not go to church, or libraries. Mac can’t hide what’s in her heart. And I’m the only person she’s ever let touch it.

I pressed the pad of my index finger on the left ventricle, hoping to both maximize my experience by touching the strongest part of the heart, and spare her any threat or discomfort. Her heart bounced with thunderous and frightening power. With one beat, I felt a shock and pulled away immediately, as if I had caught a spark from static cling. Terrified, I worried I had in fact brought electricity to our relationship, jolted her in a way that would reset her heart, or worse, stop it. By shuffling across a carpet, I could become her defibrillator. It was not the way I wanted to get to her, slay her boundaries, lower her defenses. It took years for her to tell me that no, in fact, I was her pace maker. I made everything even for her.

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