She was standing in the aisle as the train bumped along the Hudson. She was looking in her bag, as if she’d lost something important. She just meant to check that it was still there, like when she reached for her wallet the other day, just to make sure she didn’t leave it on the counter in the drugstore. Or like reaching for that small photo of her son who was now gone. Is it there? How could she go on without it? The more she looked, the more desperate she became, as if she couldn’t find her heart. Where did she leave it? She began to search her mind for when she last took her heart out. Did she leave it on the table at the restaurant when the young couple reminded her of her first love? Or did she leave it at her son’s funereal? Did it fall into his grave at the cemetery? She had to find it or she couldn’t go on. I began to ache for her, saying to myself, “Keep looking. It has to be there. You can’t lose something like that.” But then, I slouched, remembering the times I’d lost my heart and how awful the weeks before I found it. She began to cry and pull at her bag, as if it had betrayed her. My heart began to pound. Things started to spill from her bag onto the floor. I moved closer, thinking, Now that I’m in this, I have enough heart for two. I touched her arm. And the extra heart she’d given me by being so real in her fear of loss in the middle of a train—I gave it back by holding up her bag which was falling. She gasped for air, as if waking from a dream of drowning, and put her hand to her chest. It had been there all along.
A Question to Walk With: Describe a time when you thought you lost something and how that affected you.
This excerpt is from my book in progress, The Signature of Being.
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