Running through a forest at night is a terribly uncomfortable thing to do. Branches slapped at my face and hair, and the hem of my skirt caught on bushes and collected leaves and twigs. I felt like I was stumbling forward more than running.
I could never have kept up with my heart if it weren't awkward and stumbling itself. Whenever I caught a glimpse of it it was splayed on the ground and scrambling to get back on its new legs, like a puppy that didn't know how to walk properly, but was too enthusiastic care.
When I couldn't see it, I could hear it beating. A rapid 'thrum-thrum' from the darkness in front of me. A few times, the sound grew fainter and distant and I was afraid I'd lose it. I didn't know what would happen then. Could I grow another one? I ran faster and tried not to fall.
The forest ended and suddenly we were at the edge of a crevice.
The canyon in front of us seemed like a gash in the ground, with a bottom so black with distant shadow that I doubted its existence. I thought this might be one of these holes that proved infinity, and went down and down forever.
My heart stopped at the lip of the cliff. It started hopping up and down and barking. I backed away, until I was back among the trees. The crevice frightened me.
I watched my heart. I wanted to rush in and pull it to safety, but it was so recklessly close to the edge. If I startled it, it might lose its footing and fall. I watched, rubbing the bark of the tree beside me.
My heart had a loud bark for such a tiny thing. A sharp, bleating roar. It bounced about like a grasshopper, jumping franticly, barely controlled, inches away from a forever fall.
Eventually, my fear staled and became anxiety. I started trying to squint and see what it was, across the frightening divide, that my heart was barking at. I saw a figure standing on the opposite ledge, but my eyesight gets fuzzy at the outer reaches of thirty yards, and I couldn't be sure of anything but that it was a man and he was tall.
Moving with my habitual response to not being able see distant, fuzzy things, I reached into my skirt's pocket for my glasses. I put them on. Looking again, I immediately recognized the figure. It was someone with whom I had once been in love.
Using the past tense there might not have been appropriate, given my heart's behavior. I was suddenly, painfully embarrassed. I wanted to run forward and snatch my heart and stifle it's barking and hold it still. But I was still afraid of it falling.
I sat down. Twigs and leaves cracked under me. I closed my eyes and rubbed my face. I leaned against the tree beside me. Paying attention to the cool roughness of the bark against my skin felt better than paying attention to my heart's barking and the canyon and the man in the distance.
My heart kept barking for a long time. Like a tiny yappy dog with the soul of a lion, it bounced and roared. Eventually, its voice became quieter, less certain, less consistent. It went from roaring to bleating anxiously. It sounded confused. It had stopped jumping about by now, but paced restlessly along the ledge, as if it were searching for some way to cross.
The gulf went on for as far as I could see in both directions and my heart found no bridge. In the end, it lay on its side, legs kicking feebly, making this pathetic mewling noise that was intermittent and piercingly loud.
I thought this might be my chance to get it away from the crevice. I got up, walked quickly to my heart, and grabbed it.
My heart immediately started yowling and twisting in my hands. It bucked my fingers loose, and I struggled to get a firmer grip on it as I ran back to the forest. This just made it writhe harder and shriek and strain away from me.
I pulled it to my chest. I thought maybe I could push it back inside somehow. It kicked me with its four stubbly legs, trying to leap back towards the crevice and the man it wanted.
I dropped it. My chest hurt where it had kicked me with its awkward, stubby, but very strong little legs. It landed on its back and strained like a turtle, trying to right itself. Not knowing what else to do, I grabbed a stick from the ground and stood between it and the crevice. As soon as it was on its feet, it made to run back to the ledge. It stopped when it saw me and my stick.
"Stop it!" I yelled at it.
It hissed at me and tried to dodge past, but I was larger and more practiced at moving than something that had spent its life inside a ribcage. Every time it ran forward I menaced it with my stick, and it backed away.
"You stupid little thing!" I said. "We can't get across!"
It shrieked at me, and hurled itself forward. I hit it. My stick smashed into it and it gave in a sickening way. It went spinning back into a tree.
For a moment it lay still on the ground. I gripped my stick so hard it hurt, afraid of what I'd done. But my heart was only dazed. It stood up slowly. Then it bleated unhappily and ran away from me, back into the forest.
"Wait!" I said, and I ran after it again. It was hard to run. My chest ached where my heart had kicked me.
News - 09/19/12
The distant silhouette of past love--you can still make out the shape of what it once was, but it is really nothing. A shadow cast by emptiness.