Psychopomp Magazine Fall 2014 - Page 7

Cardio

In P.E., while the rest of us ran laps around the shellacked wooden stripes of the basketball court, Mac paced between the two keyholes. She kept the sleeves of her t-shirt rolled up to her shoulders. By high school, she ripped them off at the seams, creating a tough look that started a school-wide trend. Her legs, so pale that they were almost translucent, took leisurely strides, reaching goal after goal. The heart, a badge on her tricep, warmed the skin of her arm, flushing it a light pink. At the right angle, looking at her from the side, it seemed an elaborate and incredibly accurate tattoo. For the prom, she let me write with a washable crayola marker my name, an arrow piercing it.

She wasn’t supposed to live to see a year old. Then three. At six the doctors told her the heart couldn’t grow fast enough to keep up with her all the way to adulthood. Her momma bought an urn for her ashes, and it now holds Mac’s father instead. Mac became accustomed to being called a miracle. Told how lucky she was to be alive. What kind of luck, she asked me, is it to be alive when no one will let me really live?

Gram

An adult female human heart weighs about 250 grams, or 8 ounces. Mac spelled the word “ounce” incorrectly until middle school, thinking it was “o-w-n-c-e,” since she was constantly asked if the heart on her arm hurt her. On the playground as a child, I would sit on the sidewalk next to Mac and carve cities into the dirt with sticks. We would pick leaves from the bushes to landscape our imaginary towns, and carry water in our hands from the water fountain to sculpt walls and roads.

Mac and her “ouchie” were not allowed on the equipment, or in games with balls or running. For a long time, she thought “ouchie” was another person, her imaginary friend, perhaps the twin she conquered before birth. Soon she got tired of carrying Ouchie, and told her to walk on her own, screamed at her to leave her alone. The vision of another little body next to her would fade then, but the heart would stay, pounding in the place where the chest would have been.

The teacher and I found her screaming hysterically behind a tree at empty space, her right arm above her head in a tantrum. We came just as she raised her left arm in anger, and tore a hole in her aorta. There was so much blood, and she missed the rest of third grade.

Julia Carey | 7