At first I wasn’t sure, but then I leaned down close and decided, yes, it was a heart. It was purplish-red and slick with blood and beating a time so regular I could learn piano by it. Right there, in the middle of the concrete sidewalk, the heart sat like a penny. Dirt smudged its sides. There was no one else around, so I picked it up and cradled it in my hands.
I washed the heart in my kitchen sink. The dirt came right off, but the blood didn’t. It was like the slime on a snail, that blood, as though the heart needed a layer of blood to stay alive. I didn’t mind, though it meant my hands were stained red, and my countertop, and the ceramic bowl where I eventually put the heart. The bowl didn’t fill with blood. The heart was considerate like that.
Instead, the heart sang to me. If I leaned close to the heart, my ear almost touching the raw flesh of it, I could hear it sing. My husband said it sounded more like a wheeze.
He said, “Why are you keeping that thing around?”
He said, “It’s probably diseased.”
He said, “Someone abandoned it for a reason.”
He said, “That thing better not be here when I get back.”
I ignored him until he went off to work, and then I listened to the heart sing again. He was right, it was more of a wheeze, but it was a tuneful wheeze, a wheeze with purpose. It was a wheeze that wanted to be heard. It wanted to be loved.
My own heart paused for a moment, and my skin shivered as though I just stepped into a snowstorm wearing a summer dress, because I knew that somewhere out there someone was missing her heart. She had gone out for a stroll to the corner deli or to deposit her most recent check—the check already promised to overdue bills—into the bank, and on the way there she stumbled. And in the midst of recovering from that stumble, she lost her heart. It slipped from her chest onto the ground with the barest of whispers, so quickly and so gently that she never even noticed it was gone until she was back home and wondered why, suddenly, everything seemed okay with the world. Nothing could hurt her.
But I knew she wouldn’t be able to live like that forever. Soon, there would be fliers posted to every telephone pole with photocopied diagrams from anatomy books.
This is my heart. If found, please call.
I won’t call. Instead, I’m going to put the heart in my chest, right next to my own lonely heart. They will beat in sync or slightly out of sync, but they will beat together. After all, she abandoned her heart and managed to live without all the pain it brought her. She didn’t even notice.
Please, God, bring that pain to me. Let me live again.
Andrew Kozma’s fiction has been published in Albedo One, Drabblecast, Interzone and Daily Science Fiction. His book of poems, City of Regret (Zone 3 Press, 2007), won the Zone 3 First Book Award.