JAR OF HEARTS: A mutilated love story
James Gabriel (California)
There once was a girl who had been stabbed in her heart. It left a gash an inch long, leaving a small puncture on the opposite side. The girl used staples to fix the wound that time. She was still young and resilient, and staples were all that was available. She would come to learn that the pain from the staples and the ache of the healing process was half the point. The incident burned into her memory and tightened the muscle.
The wound itself never quite healed. Rather, the girl just got over it and moved on with her life. When it almost happened again, she was more prepared. What could have been a severe stabbing turned out to be only a few cuts. The cuts weren’t so bad. She bandaged them as best she could. These wounds didn’t quite heal completely either, but the pain lessened. Eventually, they too were forgotten.
When someone she had allowed to come too close decided to take a bite out of her heart, and another especially cruel person saw an opportunity and tried to cleave it in two, the pain of the wounds seemed almost too much for her to bear. They very nearly killed her, but she was still young and strong. She survived, made her way home and set to work.
For the cleaving, which split her heart more than halfway down the middle and left the muscle unable to hold itself together, she used stitches. She collected some cat gut from a nearby road kill and used it to run the stitching up one side and down the other. The cleaving had been dull, and the stitches left a jagged line. It gave her heart the resemblance of a sneaker or a football. When a few months later someone kicked her in her heart, she was grateful. The stitching held fast, and she only suffered some bruising.
The piece that had been bitten off was tricky. The bite was small and clean, but it left a hole with little teeth marks around the edge. Using a little papier-mâché and the remaining cat gut, she was able to plug the hole sufficiently. It leaked a little at first, but once the coagulation took hold, the bleeding stopped.
Even with the care she took while bandaging the wounds, they too never quite healed. With every beat of her heart, she was acutely aware of the stitches and the patchwork. The entire muscle ached dully. She could feel the weakness in areas that were still raw. The fibers had to work harder to keep up with the rest of the muscle. She noticed fear dripping down from her heart and into her stomach. It caused her to upset herself from time to time.
She tried to stay away from people after that, but avoidance is a rudimentary solution and can only do so much. In time, another managed to get close, and another, and a few more. What eventually happened to her was devastating.
The people who attached themselves to the girl separated all at once. It happened quickly and was completely unexpected. One ripped. One tore. Another put her heart in a blender, which chewed the bottom part of it to shreds. She was crushed.
Her heart had been so damaged that it didn’t even look like a heart anymore: just a misshapen pile of muscled flesh that twitched and belched blood. It was a testament to her work with the staples, the patchwork, and the stitching that her heart survived at all. Otherwise it might have been the end. There was still a lot of work to be done with what remained.
The girl knew that there had been amazing progress in the field of prosthetics lately. Thankfully, she was able to acquire a prosthetic to replace a large chunk in the upper corner of her heart. One section was so painful and raw that she decided it would be best to weld a piece to replace it. The rivets were excruciating when they went in and left quite a memorable impression. But this was what she wanted.
The shredded section was the most difficult to fix. It was the entire bottom of her heart. Everything was there, but sewing it up would require skills beyond her abilities. After a long search, she found someone who could help. It cost her one promise, ten tears, thirteen drops of blood, a poem, and the memory of her first kiss for the recipe, but she decided a remedy that worked was well worth it. The recipe came with a money-back guarantee, but since she had given no money, she wondered how that would work. No matter—the recipe was complex, and she set to work.
First she gathered fresh cobweb from her attic. She then picked the bark off a hundred-year-old oak tree. The wild flower was simple enough, but she had to find one that had grown on the grave of a serial killer, which was a bit more daunting. After that, she had to obtain several tears from a virgin. This troubled her until she realized how simple the task really was. She went next door and baby-sat for her neighbor. During the course of the evening the child experienced… an unfortunate trauma and began to wail. The girl collected the tears then soothed the child with ice cream. She already had the duct tape.
She combined most of the ingredients and crushed them together into a thick stinky yellow salve. The recipe had a spell that contained words from the Bible, the Koran and the Necronomicon. She spoke the incantation and burned three strips of duct tape, letting the remnants fall into the sticky fluid. The salve heated and bubbled above a candle flame. When the fire went out, it was ready. She had been instructed to rub the salve into her heart once a day for a week.
It was amazing! That part of her heart healed the best, nicest and strongest of all her scars. Once it was done she decided to tattoo a small design on the last undamaged section of her heart. The symbol was an intricate tribal thing and made her heart feel complete.
She had spent weeks with the broken heart. Somewhere in the middle of everything, she decided that the responsibility of carrying her heart was too much. She liked the way it felt not to have her heart burdening her. It weighed heavily on her. Rather than believe her heart had more to give, rather than understand that her heart, having been through so much was stronger than other hearts, she thought it would be best to leave it out of her body permanently. After all, it was not necessary. She was alone now. After what she’d been through, she believed she would remain so.
It took some effort, but the place where she had gotten the recipe to fix the shredded part of her heart showed her how it could be done. It would be free of charge as long as she went online and added a Yelp review.
She first installed a zipper on her chest, which was easy because the long slit had been opened and closed so often over the years. Her heart would now be easier to access for any further repairs. After that, it was just a matter of storage, for which she prepared a large glass pickle jar with an inch of white vinegar and several cups of sea salt.
The trauma and all the memories that came along with them went away once she removed the heart and placed it in the pickle jar. She stared at it, beating in the glass jar. It had been a part of her, but now it became a thing outside of her. She had no emotions about it. She felt… “Good” was not the word, because that was a feeling. She felt—nothing. She was no longer burdened. That was the point, wasn’t it? She felt light. She blinked and then stared at it almost uncomprehending the muscle.
She fixed the lid on the pickle jar and hefted it to a high shelf in the back of her cupboard. It wouldn’t be seen there and would eventually be forgotten. She would take it down when she needed it. When she wanted to feel again. When she wanted to remember. She was not content, for that was a feeling. She simply was. Numb.
In the back shelf of the cupboard, the glass jar sits, covered in dust, containing the pickled emotions of a life, both good and bad. It still beats, it still lives, but it has been mostly forgotten.
James Gabriel is a writer living in California. www.lickablewallpaper.wordpress.com