Raise Up, Heart - Leta Blake


Poe can speak to you of hearts: the ticking of them, the secrets within; he knows their ferocious strength. Poe understands. Hearts can’t be tucked beneath the floorboard of a house. They will not rest there, complicit and quiet. He knows they are stronger than that, louder, greedier—vengeful. He knows that a heart can come back for you, take you over, take you apart. It only has to beat. Ba-boom. Ba-boom. And within that sound there is infinity, and within infinity there resides the untold and unspeakable. These stories of Poe’s, you’ll never believe them, though they may chill you through. Yet they are true all the same.

True like a darling heart is true blue.

It begins with a sandwich. The bread is spongy beneath your fingers, the meat slippery and cold from the refrigerator, and the squirt of the mustard satisfyingly perverse. So you add a slap of mayo to lighten the mood and you take a bite, closing your eyes, chewing slowly, savoring the taste that you’ve almost forgotten how to enjoy.

It progresses when your girlfriend Emily lets loose a soft sound, and you open your eyes to look at her, all vanilla, warm, haloed in the light from the kitchen. “Are you okay?”

“Are you?” she asks, bright eyes glancing between your sandwich and your mustard-smeared mouth. Her frown stirs a restlessness in you.

“Of course.” You sense it down deep, how very okay you are now that you can breathe again. Your cousin Damon Black’s heart is in your chest, pumping your blood, and stirring the life inside you. Yes, relentless grief aside, you’re feeling physically better than you have since the accident. “Why?”

“The sandwich,” Emily says. “Damon…he… When we were in high school together, he ate his sandwiches just like that. Mustard, mayo, stacked with sandwich meat. You used to joke that it’d give him a coronary, remember?”

The words are in the air between you, the tension horrible, and you let them hang.

And you feel guilty. Of course you do. You’ve felt guilty every day since you discovered the source of the new heart beating in your chest. It never stops. You think you should throw the sandwich away, toss it into the trash, and make Emily forget you’re holding so much sadness. But she loves you. You see it in her eyes, the way she looks at you like you’re too good to be true, and you feel it in the way she takes you in her arms at night, tremulous and tender.

“Go on, eat it,” Emily whispers. “I think you should. Damon would want you to.”

So you do. You take bites of the sandwich and truly taste each flavor. It’s true you’ve put on more mustard than usual. True you’ve never been a fan of ham. But here, right now, in your kitchen, enveloped in the fuzz of relief and a second chance at life, you know you owe Damon more than you could ever hope to pay.

And you’d give anything for a chance pay him back. So you eat the sandwich.

For Damon.

It next shows itself when you’re walking through town. You see three old men huddled around a table playing chess. Though you never liked the game, preferring to run a football in the backyard with your friends any day of the week, you find yourself attracted to the glint of the shiny white and black pieces in the mid-autumn sun. You wander over, because after such a close brush with death, you will never deny yourself simple pleasures again.

You watch one of the men touch a pawn, and you can’t say how you know that he’s making a mistake, but you tell him, “You don’t want to do that.”

He removes his finger and says, “You’re right, son. Good eye you have there.” He points at another piece, more decorated and slimmer. “That would leave my queen in jeopardy.”

You nod and feel a sense of rightness settle over you as the man goes back to contemplating the checkered board. There’s a flash of light out of the corner of your eye. The sun has fallen on the glass windows of the stores across the street, and you see a scarf that makes you think of Emily, so you leave the men and head inside the store.

“Alex,” the shop keep greets you.

You’re certain that you know her name, but it isn’t coming to you, so you incline your head and smile boyishly, hoping that it gets you by. They’ve told you, and well you know, there may