Life Musings

Missing Ribs

      The third person comforts and hides. Like running for shelter during a storm, I feel safer when I substitute words like “she” and “him” for you and me. But I’m tired of running and I’m tired of hiding. When I was younger I used to believe that our ribcages were made from each other. When God performed that deep sleep, that first open heart surgery and made Woman from Man, I believed he set a precedent. I viewed this act of creation as the ultimate sacrifice, designed to be an invitation to the most vulnerable place of your heart while protecting mine. I used to count each rib carefully, inhaling deeply, hoping to find that extra piece of you. I still fall asleep counting ribs, fingers stumbling over my beating heart, aching, too stubborn to believe you’re not there.
      My own ribcage is worthless. I try holding my breath each time I see you, wanting like mad to expand the protection of my bones, trying to coax my racing heart into a disappearing act. My cheeks burn and flush with effort as my diaphragm finally collapses and I lose all hope of keeping you out of my bloodstream. You seep in effortlessly after the exhale, permeating those vulnerable moments between the skipped beats and gasps for air.
        The heart is an interesting organ. It is one of the only muscles that cannot repair itself. Each beat is dependent on oxygen from the lungs. If this oxygen is taken away the heart begins to decay. Once an area of the heart dies it will forever remain cold and lifeless. New, smaller vessels will form collaterals and attempt to revive the damaged tissue but the muscle becomes hard, losing its pliability. The remaining viable chambers will struggle to function without the missing piece, forming a new, a-synchronic heartbeat. Fluid will begin to fill the lungs, making each breath feel like a ton of bricks, the weight of the missing lover.
       They say heart failure is partly genetic. They say small pieces of plaque build up in our arteries, clogging blood flow and causing irreversible harm. They say to stop eating so many cheeseburgers and get off the couch. I look into your eyes and count the erratic beats of my heart, willing the missing pieces to synchronize, to revive and become whole. “They” forget to mention the countless held breaths and missing ribs.


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