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Janis Jaquith
janis@radioessays.com
438 words

HEART, BEAT

I am drifting through sleep, my mind engaged in one of those stupid, nonsensical dreams that are a waste of good dream time, when I wake up, and I just know that I have to get up and move around, or I will die. I know something is wrong with my heart. I think it has stopped beating.

I leap out of bed and pace furiously for a few seconds, in a desperate attempt to seize control of my body, to force this strange feeling - this feeling that I'm suddenly dying - to pass. It doesn't. And I'm shouting, "Oh! Oh! Oh my God! It's not working, it's not going away!"

Now, my husband is awake. He has flipped the light on and he's kneeling on the edge of the mattress, looking panicked and helpless. I'm standing there in the long white nightgown my mother gave me for Christmas. And I'm thinking: How appropriate, I'm already dressed in my ghost costume.

I feel myself slipping away, sinking, like Leonardo DiCaprio slipping off the driftwood from the Titanic, unable to hold onto this world any longer. I'm dying, and I don't know what I'm supposed to grab onto. I'm feeling nothing where my heart should be.

A horrifying void is spreading out, overtaking my chest. When the void spreads upward to my head, I lean forward into my husband's arms and I say, "In case I don't make it: I love you."

And I'm sinking, and at the same time I'm feeling buoyant, less dense, but still slipping away. I'm dying.

With a powerful lurch, my heart takes control, and it thumps and thumps and thumps, each thump a desperate apology for having abandoned me like that, for letting me float off toward a place where heartbeats don't matter.

I lie back in bed as my heart's now-diligent pumping grows softer and more regular. Slowly, my heart chants: I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry. And I rest my right hand over my heart, as if to soothe it, and we promise, my heart and I, to take care of one another from now on.

Yes, yes, yes, I will call the doctor in the morning, first thing. I promise, yes.

And this interior, rhythmic massage sends me drifting along the safe, happy surface of consciousness where I fall into one of those wonderful, nonsensical dreams as my husband's face hovers over mine: vigilant, grateful, worried.


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