I am a woman, wearing white. Today is not my wedding day.
I am lying down on a pristine white bed.
The shape I take on the bed, and the shape of my cheekbones, well, I can only describe those as American Beauty.
My lips are painted red, but when I put my lipstick on, earlier, or when someone else put it on for me (I can’t recall…), the job was not well done, and much of the colour spills outside the bowtie of my mouth.
Blue veins rise up on my pale cheeks and forehead, rivers of some distant cartography. White and blue, white and blue, white and blue, I am but a marble slab shaped into the shape of a woman.
You see me from up above, as if you are a camera suspended from the ceiling. My eyes, tired and dreadful, lock pointlessly with the mechanical twinkle of your aperture.
On the left side of my chest, where my breast used to be, there is a large open wound. It is a melting mess of reds: burgundy of oxidized blood, purple of muscle and marrow, pink of tendon and sinew. Crooked pieces of ivory bulge into space like question marks. Entire rib sections are missing.
From where you are, up on the ceiling, you can zoom directly into the empty pit on the left side of my chest. You can see that it is hollow, empty.
Lying beside me on the bed is my glistening, bleeding heart. My anthropomorphic plum. My heart and I both rest on pillows, except my pillow is blindingly white, while its is a deep, bloody crimson. There are two large vessels still attached to the east and west sides of my heart: one used to draw blood, the other pushed it out. These vessels used to connect me to my heart, but that was then. They did not survive the unbundling.
With my gold, angelic curls fanned out behind me, I turn to examine the struggling heart next to me. It is trying to fulfill its former duty, trying to beat. First, the left vessel, the one that used to suck blood, makes a primal, prehistoric sound as it attempts to take in liquid but finds only air. Second, the clutched fist of my heart squeezes and releases meekly, half-mast. Third, the heart’s right vessel tries to spit out blood it never received, instead sending a spittle of red droplets into the room’s bright, clean atmosphere. The effort is both pathetic and remarkable, full of faith and purpose yet doomed for imminent demise.
My heart is the runner approaching Marathon.
I turn to look at the ceiling above. Your glass eyeball has not budged, hanging like a microphone from a single cord snaked into the powdered ceiling.
I shut my eyes, and think of ambulances. Wheeled and motored gurneys, Samaritans of modern civilization, coming to the aid of whoever called them last.
A ringing, ringing, ringing, ringing, ringing. I stretch my hand towards the large blue rotary phone on the bedside table. I lift the receiver, but don’t say anything.
A siren wails back at me through the phone.
Red-and-blue lights dance in through the window.
Help, I think. Help.
I hear footsteps on the stairs. A man barges into my room. He is wearing a white lab coat that blends with his long, silver hair. He carries with him a large leather briefcase. He is followed by a slight brunette woman with kind eyes and a red bucket in hand. She has on a white apron and a tiny white hat inscribed with a red cross. A younger man with a precise haircut enters last, and closes the door behind him. He is dressed in a suit and tie and has on thick leather gloves.
The three of them converge around my bed assertively. The man in the lab coat lowers his suitcase to the floor, flips it open, and pulls out two pairs of yellow rubber gloves. He hands one pair to the woman with the tiny hat. Eyes locked, synchronized, they pull on the gloves, and then give each other a tiny nod.
Carrying the red bucket, the woman approaches the stuttering heart lying on the pillow beside me. She places the bucket on the floor next to the bed. Gently, gingerly, she slides her right hand under the heart and places her left hand on top. It is the size of a very small newborn baby. She lifts the heart, handling it like a wounded bird, like a balloon full of neon paint. My heart contracts in her arms, as if trying to escape. Biting her lower lip, the woman digs her yellow fingers more firmly into the red flesh, and carefully lowers my heart into the bucket. Despite her best efforts, it lands with a wet plop. There is a trail of blood on the white sheets.
She takes the bucket and leaves the room.
“She’ll be back, don’t worry,” says the man in the suit and tie. He is now sitting on the bed next to me, petting my forearm with his leather glove. I look at him, blinking, but he is practiced and steadily returns my gaze. His face is still. Time passes.
The brunette woman returns with the red bucket. It looks heavier than before. I can hear liquid sloshing around inside it, and it sounds fuzzy and jumpy, alive, like Coke in a fresh can.
The woman places the bucket in front of the man in the white coat. They both peer inside, their heads coming to touch over the bucket.
“Like I always say: sugar and hydration,” says the man in the white coat, the side of his mouth lifting. “What is this, exactly?”
“Fanta,” says the woman, “apparently it’s her favourite.”
“Perfect, perfect,” says the man.
The man in the white coat bends at the waist, picks up the bucket, and approaches the man in the suit and tie.
“Sorry, George,” he says, prompting the man in the suit and tie to stand up and make room.
Holding the bucket in his left hand, the man in the white coat reaches inside with his right hand and lifts out my heart. He holds it in front of him like a piece of meat that it is. Then, rotating the heart down like a basketball, he deposits it inside my chest. I feel it lurch.
“There,” says the man, wiping his yellow glove on his white coat, leaving behind red and orange stains of blood and Fanta. “Nancy?”
“Right behind you,” says the woman with the kind eyes, as she steps around the man in the white coat, grabbing his waist. Then, she climbs onto my bed on all fours, straddles me, and lowers her face to within inches of the hole in my chest. In her hand is a large crochet needle laced with blue yarn.
“Sorry,” she says to me, without looking up, “but I need to see what I’m doing.”
The woman begins rooting around in my chest. She finds one of the great vessels still attached to my heart, unravels it, holds it between her thumb and forefinger, and begins piercing it with her needle, tangling the blue yarn with the red vein. Each time she digs in, I feel a mosquito bite. She next directs the needle into my chest: one, two, three, four, five times. She ties a half-hitch knot and snips the yarn with a miniature pair of gilded scissors retrieved from her apron. She repeats the process with the other vessel. I watch her silently as she works, as she ties my chest together with blue twine.
“First timer, I think,” says the woman to the room, as she knots the yarn for the second time. “Almost no scar tissue. John, you’re up.”
I look over at the man with the haircut, the suit and tie, and the leather gloves. His face is now obstructed by a dark welder’s mask, eyes hidden behind a square mirrored panel. My own eyes stare back at me as he approaches with a crooked metal tube in one hand and a steel grate in the other. He installs the grate on my chest, pushes it in roughly, and tells me to close my eyes. I do. He welds the grate into place. Through my eyelids I see flashes of bright fluorescent light. Warm sparks land on my face and belly. I smell burning flesh.
After a time, the action ceases. I open my eyes to find the same white ceiling above me, and you still on the ceiling. I was hoping you would be gone by now. I was hoping this was the point. We look at one another and I try and ask you questions, but our faces no longer share a tongue. I close my eyes, in hopes of drifting away for almost indefinitely.
Meanwhile, George, John, and Nancy gather their equipment without speaking. Two pairs of rubber gloves float in a bucket of reddish Fanta.
“Follow up in four to six weeks, I think,” says George, making a note in a prescription pad, tearing out a page, and leaving it next to my sleeping body.
“Another call,” says Nancy, checking her watch. Holding their tools, the three make their polite and professional escape.