I take my silver heart out of its box and wind it up until it begins ticking. Right away I give it to a grey-eyed boy in P.E. After a change of heart, I ask for it back. His badminton partner serves it to me, lightly. For a moment, it soars.
My heart has a will of its own. It sets its own green heart on Leif Garrett, the entire JV tennis team, and the strangely magnetic older man at the video store. Sometimes I chase after them—my heart and its heart. Other times I let them go. They get tromped on, but only grow wilder and tougher.
In my thirty-first year, my heart’s stolen by a piano player. One terrible night I yank it from his pounding hands and run. Once home I see my heart is black and blue, and can’t stop beating an irregular tune. It keens off-key when it realizes we’ve left its heart behind. I lock my heart away in the Peruvian sideboard, only bringing it out to rub with a soft cloth at the holidays, along with my grandmother’s hopelessly tarnished silverware.
One spring, my heart thumps so loud the old blonde sideboard sways and cracks open. I nearly have a heart attack as my heart races through me and leaps out the window. I sprint after it. The cavernous hole in my center sinks—as I realize my scarred, dark organ is headed to the piano player’s flat.
At the corner of 24th and Des Moines, with the sun a bloodshot eye as witness, my heart stops but then tries to beat the light. Mid-intersection it’s hit and shattered by a Little Debbie bakery van. Tiny, purpled bits punctuate the pavement. The driver helps me pick up the pieces, even giving me a heart-shaped sugar cookie, as a start.
Over the next few weeks, the bakery van driver and I keep time together, until my battered heart is as good as new. Through the years I bare it, cry it out, wear it on my sleeve. But never close it away again. Recently, I’ve given portions to my children and their children and even a few stray tabbies. Gladly, generously. Until the final second, when I feel the last of my heart flutter like a golden moth—the moment before it goes out.