Someone asked me yesterday, what it was like knowing I would get divorced last August.
This is the only way I can describe it.
I cringed on the stone slab in the middle of the crypt. The rock felt so cold, biting into the bare skin on the back of my arms. An old man leaned over me and inspected the muscles just below my collarbone.
"You're sure?" he wheezed, his low voice chilling my soul, his breath smelling of ale.
I swallowed in an effort to moisten my drying throat. My eyes closed tight and I wished the last few years had never happened, the sadness, the heartache, the lies. . . .
"So?" he asked somewhat impatiently.
I nodded. "Yes." The word was little more than a whisper. "Yes. I'm sure."
He doused my upper chest in iodine, then added a splash of whiskey for good measure before taking a quick swig of it for himself.
The old man laughed maniacally; the hairy mole on his cheek vibrating with each croak of laughter. I began rethinking my choice of physician; not because of his laughter, but because of that damn mole. It really was bigger than Milwaukee.
I wondered if he'd ever begin working--my body tensing more with every passing second. But it wasn't too much longer, that he started cutting out my heart. He'd asked if I wanted something to ease the pain, but I'd refused. I thought, this was the last thing I'd feel and I wanted to remember you . . . one last time.
Screams escaped from my throat over and over as the moments passed like single leaves--time.less.ly--falling from an autumn tree. I felt even more cowardly than before, writhing on that table, screaming because of something as stupid as physical pain. WE'D been through much worse than that. And WE knew there are worse things than death. Like the time we held our son--as he suffocated in OUR arms. Or the journey--when WE'D practically been to Hell and back in those following years--yet still made it through.
The old man's assistant came in at one point. "Here! Hold this!" The physician slammed a reddened scalpel into his assistant's hands. I sobbed from the fire-like aching that shot through my chest. My body shook uncontrollably then, just like it had the first time I'd made love to you, back when I was seventeen. It had been a snowy night, the night we took our vows. . . . It was things like that--I no longer wanted to feel--even if only in my memories.
Tears slid down my face--so many, they could have created a damn lake. We were done. Our relationship spent. As if our candle had finally burned to its final, inexplicable end. And I felt like our love had died, just like our son did so many years ago. . . .
I tried sitting up on the stone table, but the old man had tied my hands and upper body--when I'd been so eager to forget. Now, there was no getting away. And as my stomach muscles tensed, my chest throbbed with the severe pain that ensues the shock from a serious injury.
Panicked, my breaths came out too quickly. I'd wanted to stop feeling, no matter the cost--but had I known what it would really do to me?
"She'ssss breathing too-ooo quickly," the assistant hissed.
"Let her," the old man replied. "She'll pass out soon. And this will all go much faster."
But I didn't pass out. Not until I felt my own heart pop from my chest, with a gurgling snap that made me lose consciousness faster than Monica Lewinsky lost her virginity.
When I woke up, I realized the old man must have untied me because my arms kept flying to my chest as my hands pawed at everything that was no longer there.
The old man and his assistant were gone--and so was everything they'd used to "operate." In fact, the room was empty . . . except for one thing. Resting on the side table was someone else's heart, diseased, rotting and aged with heartache of its own; next to it, sat a note.
The fine print read:
"Give it time and you will grow another heart, a fresh one. Use someone else's diseased heart and although your own pain will lessen now, in the end, it will magnify tenfold. You can only grow anew, when you aren't using someone else's heart as a crutch."I shook my head--use someone else as a crutch? I shunned the idea, walked toward the exit, my empty chest throbbing with each step. But eventually, my progress to the exit slowed so much, I hunched, hurting beyond my previous comprehension.
I almost left that room . . . almost. But then the pain was too great. I sighed with irony; I'd had them remove my heart, so I'd never feel again, yet now I felt more pain than ever.
I could hardly make it to the exit; how did I expect to make it in the world outside?
It took a while, but I hobbled to the diseased heart on the table--picked it up and thrust the damn thing into my own barren chest cavity. At once, I felt that it had belonged to someone else near my own age. I sensed their sadness and that numbed my own pain.
Slowly the heart began beating, ever so gently, even as it spread a disease throughout my own body, pulsing with a rhythm unlike any I'd ever known. And although it wasn't anything compared to what I'd had before, it was enough to get me through.
I walked up the tiny stairs leading from the crypt, and went into the blinding sunlight just outside.
My skin shone gray and dying, but at least I was still alive.
That's when I realized, I'd really left my past . . . and I could never go back again.