It was a Tuesday when her heart broke.
There was nothing significant about that particular Tuesday. She wouldn’t even remember what day it was, if she hadn’t written it in her journal. She found it so odd that it would break on such a day, as Tuesdays have little to no meaning besides being the day after Monday, and far too early in the school week.
And yet, that was when her heart broke. It shattered into pieces, the sound a muffled cracking of glass. She took the pieces and placed them in a plastic sandwich bag, hoping the sharp edges wouldn’t break through. It wouldn’t do to lose pieces of her heart to a hole. Bad enough she’d broken it in the first place.
She placed it in her dresser, under socks and unmentionables, thinking surely her little brother wouldn’t get into it there. She feared he’d cut himself on the sharp edges—or worse, lose or break a piece.
She didn’t know what could be done about it, though, her broken heart. There were plenty of theories amongst her pre-teen girl friends, but no solid evidence that any of it worked.
Dating was one option, but she had no interest in anyone, girl, boy, or otherwise.
Her mother and father may have something to say about it, but she was too afraid to admit she’d broken something so important. No, she had to figure this out on her own.
But as many things do, the broken pieces of her heart wrapped in plastic in her dresser grew forgotten over the years. And what of it? She did well in her classes, she didn’t have any close friends but she made do with acquaintances. The teachers, her family and friends, they all loved her. What did it matter if she couldn’t love them back?
It was something her second girlfriend says that reminds her of the secret hidden in her dresser drawer. “I feel like you’re so disconnected,” she had said. “That you don’t let anyone in.”
This reminded her of her shame, because how can you feel connected to anyone without a heart?
Later that night, she pulled the plastic bag out of her dresser drawer. It was worse for the wear, years of being pushed back and forth between socks and underwear had worn down the sharp edges. She laid the pieces out on her bedspread, and found they didn’t even fit together anymore. How to fix something so broken?
She pondered on this for a while, dismissing ideas as they came. Finally, she thought that maybe she could glue it all together and hope for the best. But first, she needed to do a test- it wouldn’t do to mess it up on her first try. Not that it could get any more broken, but she didn’t trust in her own abilities to hold it steady.
And so she went to her desk, grabbed several sheets of crisp white computer paper, and traced every piece. When that was done, she thought she might as well decorate it, seems how art was one of her favorite subjects, and leaving it blank felt like a waste.
And so each piece took on a new theme- flowers, hearts, clouds, rainbows. When it was all done, she took clear tape and taped it all into a 3D montage until it’s stood on its own, a sort of delicate paper sculpture. She was ready.
But she was also tired. And so she replaced the pieces of her heart into a baggie, and put them back in her dresser drawer to start putting back together tomorrow.
The next day, she placed her schoolbag over the back of her chair, and stared at the paper heart. Just as she decided it was time, her mother knocked on the door, and came directly in—a habit she’d promised she’d stop doing, but that was her mother.
“Did you see that your father-” she starts, then sees the heart on the table. “Well isn’t that just gorgeous sweetheart?” Her mother walks over, leans forward to look at the diagram of the heart, beautiful in it’s simple and varied decorations. “It’s beautiful darling. We should hang this up in the living room, fishing line from the ceiling ought to do it.”
She opens her mouth to protest, but stops. Inside her chest, near her lungs and just under her ribcage, she feels a flutter. A wisp of feeling.
In a moment her mind is set. “I’d love that,” she says, to her mother’s surprise. “Can I help?”
In the following years, decades, and lifetime, whenever she felt those moments of darkness, when the hollow where her heart used to be aches, she picks up pen, pencil, paint—whatever she can find—and she creates with the heart she’s missing.
And she feels.