Sunday, September 25, 2011

Nothing At All Like A Bruce Springsteen Song

Do you remember that time you threw your heart from the window of a speeding car?

Was it burning?

No, not that time. It was just heavy, a sodden wad of plumbed meat. It felt like a water balloon coated with grease. It couldn't have weighed more than a softball, and it bounced once on the shoulder of the highway and skipped off into the ditch. Some kid who was out fucking around found it the next day, put it in a plastic grocery sack, and took it to school for show-and-tell. An alarmed teacher confiscated your heart and hauled it to the principal's office.

The principal was a wattled walrus of a man, and he called the county sheriff, who came down, took one peek in that plastic sack, and had a pretty damn good idea what he was looking at, even as he wasn't quite sure what to do with it.

Within 24 hours posters started appearing on telephone poles around town, which is how you eventually got your heart back, although at the time you weren't so sure you even wanted it back.

Remember that dinky town? What a strange place. What a strange time in our lives that was. The town was so small that it didn't have a newspaper or radio station, and the closest city that had either was almost forty miles away and had been pretending for half a century that the little town didn't exist.

The town had a serious inferiority complex going back almost a hundred years, and things had gotten so bad that there was a vocal cult of locals that was convinced they were living in the hallucination of a senile god. Somebody had made a trip to a big city in the north some years earlier and had returned with a state road map on which the town was nowhere to be found, further convincing many people that they, their families, pets, cars, homes, neighborhoods, and entire community did not, in fact, exist.

A dwindling group of optimists formed the Existence Party and ran a full slate of candidates for local offices. Every one of them was soundly defeated. Yet still the town carried on as best it could; the residents dutifully paid their property taxes, sent their children to school, maintained their homes and lawns, and --for the most part, anyway-- obeyed local laws.

High school graduation became known as Vanishing. Almost without exception graduates fled town immediately with whatever memories they had left, never to return. You couldn't for the life of you figure out how they escaped. Newcomers, even relative newcomers --anybody, really, who had not lived there all their lives-- tended to suffer from gradually worsening memory problems, particularly regarding how they'd come to live in the town in the first place.

You were definitely in this camp. When I first met you you no longer had the foggiest idea what you were doing in that place or why you had moved there. You insisted it was the most boring place you'd ever been, and you had the odd feeling that you were being held hostage. More and more often you felt like you were lost the instant you left your house. Often enough, in fact, you were lost even when you were in your house.

The streets of the town had become a sort of labyrinth to you, and you often found yourself unwittingly driving in circles, sometimes for hours at a time. The streets all seemed to either dead end or circle back on themselves.

Sometimes at night you would park at one of these dead ends and shine your car lights out into the seemingly endless scrub brush beyond the city limits. You said you would see dark shapes moving around out there, and the occasional flash of yellow or red eyes captured in your headlights. Coyotes, you thought, or perhaps even wolves.

It was the sense of captivity, the boredom, and the torment of your eroding memory that led you to throw your heart from the window of the speeding car. A woman had been driving, but you couldn't remember her name or what she looked like. You retained a vague memory of being tormented by the woman's incessant chatter.

The day you retrieved your heart from the sheriff's office, as you drove home with the plastic bag rattling on the passenger seat, you realized that your eyesight was rapidly fading. By the time you got home you were almost completely blind and had a difficult time finding your way into the house.

You remembered that much, at least for a few days. Your house, you said, was dark, and you could barely make out the various familiar shapes in your kitchen. You could hear the hum of the refrigerator. You felt with your hands and located the counter next to the sink, and there you deposited your heart in its grocery sack.

You were so tired, uncommonly tired was the phrase you used, and you suspected that you might be dying. How long, you wondered, could a man live without a heart?  And how long had it been since you flung it from the window of the speeding car? You really had no idea. There was, however, very little doubt about this much: you were now almost completely blind. You were disconsolate. Words were beginning to break apart in your head; they had been slowing way down for quite some time, but now they were truly starting to disintegrate. There was a moment in which you said you were seized with a powerful longing to hear Louis Armstrong. A few snippets of a tune jerked momentarily between your ears and then just as quickly evaporated.

At some point you fell into a deep sleep, perhaps even a coma. When you regained consciousness you were still sitting at your kitchen table, and you said you could hear your heart stirring in the plastic sack. Rattling, initially, and then jerking around.

When I found you you had your heart in your hands, cradled like a rabbit.

Do you remember the rest? Do you remember how we escaped together, and how, even slumped against the passenger window and blind and barely conscious, you mumbled that our getaway in the dead of night was "just like a Bruce Springsteen song"?

Do you remember how I cut up your heart with a steak knife and fed it back to you one bite at a time?

Can you remember that, baby?

I hope one day soon you'll remember everything, and never again forget what happened next. 


  1. your opening reminds me of a first hand account of a suicide bombing in pakistan-the first failed attempted murder of the lovely bhutto:

    "i was hit by heavy rose petals. then i realized it was bits of human flesh."

  2. How great it would be to have a second self reminding you, bit by bite, of everything you knew.

    "And then, you remember what happened next..."

    This is more than a convenience of narration, it is a second self, serving up bites of your life by forkful.

    Is it a friendly self? Or does it have its own dark agenda?