Narcissit? Who me?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Pull Pull Pulling on my Heart-Sleeves.

So, I wasn't going to publish this here because I was waiting for it to be published in a certain literary magazine, win all sorts of awards, and if not make me rich, at least make me famous*. But since this is the onle space that will publish me, here goes.


*It is in no way worthy of this type of attention, praise, or prestige, but I have uncontrollable delusions of grandeur and an active imagination.


Once there was a girl who wore her heart on her sleeve. She was a regular girl, save for the decision to place her heart there. As we all know, one can choose to put our hearts where we want. Some lock theirs in iron safes, others put them in their smiles. Some, who are foolish, place them in silly places like their feet, or in the lining of their favorite sports coat (ones with the re-inforced elbow pads.) But the most reckless mistake that some people make is to place their hearts on their sleeves. Right out in the open where everyone can see them and touch them. Sure it makes it easy to offer your heart to someone. You neither have to remove footwear, and the task does not require a stitch riper and all you must do is extend your hand to your intended and the heart, your heart, is in their court. But this also means that your heart is often subject to damage both intentional and not. And that is what happened to this particular girl.

This particular girl was not extraordinary in many of the conventional ways we use to define an extraordinary person these days. She was not drop-dead gorgeous. Nor did she possess a mental capacity rival to Stephan Hawking (case and point: the location of her heart) but still bright. Yet she was special in that she was, despite the heart damage that was often inflicted upon her, an optimist. Even more remarkable was that she was a romantic optimist. She was of the school of thought that still, in this day and age, believed in: soul-mates, love at first sight, true love, and endless love. Counted also in a lesser importance were the sub-categories of puppy love, young love, crushes, infatuations, and lastly twitter-pation. And it was her belief in these myths that caused her to place her heart where she put it. She believed that that particular local would aid her in her quest. Because she was on a quest, for she believed in these occurrences so much she took a dangerous route and went out into the world searching for them.

She gathered evidence of their existence from every source she could. Love songs, romance novels, television serials, and romantic comedies, were all understood as experiments that proved that love still existed. Even more potent and convincing was the stories told to her by people who, themselves, thought they were in love. And as a non-romantic optimist, one understands, that there is nothing further from the truth than the stories told by people in this altered state of mind. But so strong was her faith that the girl believed everything she heard about love. She learned about how lovers met, how love started, how love grew, how love thrived, and most importantly how radiant love felt. It was after hearing these stories, time and time again, that the girl’s quest changed into something different. She was no longer satisfied with waiting for love to happen to her, therefore she set out to cultivate it on her own.

Because of the evidence (which was highly suspect, remember) that the girl collected had taught her everything (or so she thought) about love, she counted herself an expert on the subject. So with her heart pinned on her sleeve, she set out to make love happen. She knew the basic ingredients of love: two people. And being only one person herself she had to go out and find herself a partner. This proved the most difficult task in her cultivation. She knew that love required certain conditions in order for it to thrive. She knew that love required proximity, geography, attraction and common interest. But you still needed another person. A person who shared things in common with her would be the best candidate. This narrowed her searching areas to a feasible amount of possible suitors and so she set to work. She found public places that combined her own interests in music, film, or art with the possibilities of meeting eligible strangers. She selected places that were close to her home but not in her own immediate area, to avoid uncomfortable run-ins. So in one such place, a loud and smoky place she hunted for partners and after long and lonely nights spent sipping drinks by herself and whittling down prospects she made her selections. Her assignment was a solo activity, but it did yield results. The partners she found in these places, after the long and smoky nights, held characteristics she found to be essential to her own definition of love; that being a definition involving both free will and magic sparks. Her definition of love was also dependant upon the variables of : attraction (both between each other as well as an equal level of attractiveness comparatively), musical tastes, ambition, barbiturate intake, and general coolness. The partners selected played into a variable range of scores in each of these categories; entered into intense calculation and a points system that determined their advancement to the next stage.

The next step that the girl proceeded with in her creation of love was intimacy. She knew from daytime talk shows that love required this or else it often took a turn for the worse and ended up bitter and angry. She knew that there was more than just the physical intimacy that love, or lust, was often associated. She knew it also needed another level of intimacy, one involving communication. So with each of the partners that she selected (and their were many because theories aren’t proven with isolated incidences) she created intimacy. She sat them down, when alone, and held their hands and stroked their faces, and did all those things that create intimacy. She also did all those things that happen when attraction and intimacy occur at the same time, but afterwards she would tell them things. She would tell them intimate details of her life. She would tell them hopes and dreams and fears and doubts. She would create environments where this sharing was encouraged. But if the partner would not advance to this level, she would press them gently, allowing them to share, and eventually the partners would advance or not.

For the partnerships that survived this far (because at this point it was not a simply a girl with her heart on her sleeve and a boy she had selected, they were a partnership) the next step would be a hearty dose of time spent together coupled with the creation of a routine. The partnership would engage in time spent together almost exclusively alone, much to the dismay of the friends and family on either side. It was in these times that the partnership (guided by the heart impaired, romantic optimist of coarse) crafted their own routine. This included things done together, simple things that made it possible for the partnership (under the direction and vision of the sleeve stitched-heart, female half) to imagine the routine occurring indefinitely. Examples would be buying groceries together or completing household tasks that could, even in the mind of the most unimaginative could be imagined performing many years into the future. This was the most difficult stage for the girl with the heart on her sleeve. Because it was the hardest stage for her to manipulate, cultivate, or colour. She could paint as many pictures of this future when in the process of performing their routine, or in the intimate alone time they shared. But it was when her partner left her side or grew quiet or introspective that she could not control the future that they were imagining, and most importantly she could not control their desire to achieve that future. For this was the most important aspect that the girl had learned about love; Love was forever. It is an ever-lasting thing. Time and love went on along side one another, and in her careful cultivation of love, time was the only thing that she could not manipulate. Which is why she pressured them with routine and dreams of someday, which we know, is a very dangerous thing to do. Perhaps it is also why her cultivation of love theory hasn’t produced a desirable outcome.

For all her trying, the girl with her heart on her sleeve is still tweaking and redefining, and seeking, and exploring the existence of love. But with every partner selected, and every partnership started, and for every hour of intimacy and togetherness logged; love has often times seeded, sprouted, and then stunted, stalled, and died. And it is in these events we see another amazing quality about this girl. She falls to pieces. She feels deeply the loss of every partner (or partnership) she cherishes every second of intimacy and time that was allowed them. She calls friends and eats ice cream out of tubs (because that is the recipe, and subsequent treatment for the demise of possible love, cited by her) and she cries. She cries not for losing those people from her life. She cries because as an optimist, in those minutes, or hours, or seconds in which the partnership is severed, and the experiment that she has put so much work and longing into dies, she feels a sudden and fleeting moment where she loses hope. So startling is it to the romantic optimist that she cries and mourns the relationship (because that is also that is what you are supposed to do) but it is in the time of mourning that the girl with her heart on her sleeve also rebuilds her hope. She imagines her next partner, and her next experiment, and the love they will feel. And she imagines this love. And it is perhaps because of the foolish location of her heart, so close to not belonging to her, outstretched, reaching for that someone else, that she can imagine this love. Because in her cultivation of love she has been able to feel something like love, close to love, and so her damaged heart heels in anticipation. Optimistic and romantic, still stitched to her sleeve.

The girl, as stated before, is foolish for placing her heart in such a place, when it could be safely stored in other places away from damage. But the girl is also lucky, because although her experiment is flawed, as love cannot be created or cultivated just as one cannot force love to stop or listen to reason, the girl is able to feel something. Something so worth while that she has gone through trouble and hurt (and expensive ice cream) all in the hopeful chance of feeling it again and again, if only for a second. And those of us who store our hearts in places unreachable, and simply wait for love to happen, have never felt what she has. So our hearts may not be scared, or damaged, but they have also never felt that addictive spark that makes the waiting all the more bearable.