I have been most heavily influenced by Lemony Snicket, Sei Shonagon, Kurt Vonnegut, and Ralph Waldo Emerson in all my readings. For the purposes of this week’s DP Challenge I’m choosing to imitate (rather strictly in this case) Margaret Atwood, whose usage of detail and subtlety really motivate me to become a better writer.
by Margaret Atwood
I was given a voice. That’s what people said about me. I cultivated my voice, because it would be a shame to waste such a gift. [The rest can be found here.]
I was given a heart. That’s what people said. I carried it close, because it would be a shame to waste such a gift.
I pictured this heart as a fragile thing, susceptible to scuffs and breakage, something that would shine with good care. I made sure to keep it safe, away from careless hands and commotion, polishing it every night. I breathed over its surface and wiped away the condensation again and again. I cradled it like a child; I ordered it to stay still. I covered it in scarves so it wouldn’t fade in the harsh light. I protected it, I saved it, I watched it crystallize and harden like sugar on a string. The heart gained strength. People said I had a mighty heart. It grew unwieldy, and soon everyone could see it.
My heart was on display. People gossiped about it. Artists scrambled for their pencils at the sight of it. Some demanded it. I lent it to others with reluctant hands like it was a favorite book. The more people I met, the more my heart was passed around. Some held it to the light and turned it so. Some chose to play with it, and I did not deny them. Some dropped it and acted as if I couldn’t tell. What I didn’t know was that I would not be able to wipe away the smears of countless fingerprints on its surface.
Then, as hearts do, it would start to crack open. Finally it would shatter in my hands, and I would be left alone–off-balance, dull, muted. It’s beginning to happen, the breaking. Only I have noticed it so far. My light is dimmer, everything is dimmer without its usual radiance. I toss my heart up in the air hoping people won’t notice the dark. I come out only in the day and enjoy what external warmth I can. In short, I was afraid.
Now it’s evening; streetlamps blink to life, chatter spills onto the streets. We sit by the window, my heart and I; or rather I sat, because my heart demanded to be held. It was always in someone’s hands. We are savoring the stillness of the quiet together. How much longer do I have? My heart has no sense of time. I’ve cradled and cherished it the best I could, but it’s only a heart, it doesn’t know one pair of hands from the next.
Though it’s begun to fall apart, my heart is still as needy as ever. It’s supposed to help me love others but it can’t even love itself. It’ll switch hands over and over and over again no matter how many times its thrown against the wall or kicked into the gutter. It won’t stop until it’s ground to dust.
Soon it will be time for us to go out. We’ll emerge smiling together. I’ll give it a quick polish and a quick kiss before it will start to roll off my fingertips. When it returns more bruised than before it’ll again settle in my chest like a dark anchor, freezing me where I stand.