Late one night, Becca gathered her supplies—flashlight, spackling knife, rubber spatula, shovel, and scalpel—and walked into the woods behind her house. The breeze rustled her black hair, and the tall trees waved back and forth as if to welcome her. Far in the woods, she found a spot she liked: desolate, and so dark it seemed black. She set the flashlight on a log pointing at the ground and began to dig. When the hole was deep enough, she threw the shovel to the side and began to unbutton her shirt. There was a circle drawn in blue Sharpie above her left breast. She pulled the scalpel from her back pocket and began to cut, wincing at the pain, trying to follow the smooth line of the pen with her unsteady hand.
It had been a year since David had left. Since then Becca had gorged on memories of their love like an addict. As a teenager she’d been a binge eater; she’d sneak a bucket of fried chicken into her room and stuff it into her mouth until the grease and fat made her retch. Now she devoured her own grief, seeking out the memories that would cause her the most pain. At night, she’d lie awake in bed and remember the tender way he’d stroked her hair. In the morning, as she made coffee, she’d think of how she’d laughed at him for insisting on instant, how she’d handed him his cup with a smirk. She’d start to cry again, with big splashy tears that dripped into the mug. The longing filled her heart, and yet she craved more, stuffing herself until she was full of self-loathing.
One day, she saw him at Home Depot with a woman. They were gazing at Benjamin Moore color cards in shades of gray, and she peered at them from behind the primer aisle. She breathed quickly through her mouth, her eyes wide. The woman had a blonde ponytail and a tiny, firm butt, just like David, and they both wore black athleisure wear and baseball caps. They looked like brother and sister. She felt her stomach twist and her heart pound. David slung his arm around the woman’s shoulders, then slid it down her back. Becca imagined slamming a can of paint into their blonde heads. I’m fucking done, she thought. I’ll scrape the love out of my heart. She clenched her fists, determined.
Now, deep in the woods, Becca cut firmly into her flesh with the scalpel. When the jagged circle was almost complete, she opened the flesh like a door, reached inside, and found her heart. She pulled it carefully out of her chest. She searched the sides with her fingers until she found the latch, and pressed it so the door in front popped open. She picked up the spatula and dipped it inside, pushing the edges of the utensil against the walls and pulling in a circular motion. The heart gave off a rancid smell. She could feel an ache in her chest, as if her body missed the bloody organ. Becca pulled the spatula out of her heart, twisting away from the smell, and dropped it into the hole. She pulled the spackling knife out of her pocket. She began to scrape the remaining love out, but it was caked to the sides. She pushed deeper with the edge of the knife.
Suddenly, Becca felt the knife pierce the inside wall of her heart. Her breath caught with the shock as she watched a trickle of blood ooze out of the open door. She stared in horror, and dropped the knife; she had brought no gauze, no bandages. The heart began to pound, making it harder to hold, and Becca began to feel dizzy and weak. She shut the little door with her right hand, but the blood was too thick and was mucking up the latch. In a panic now, the heart dancing in her hands, she shoved it back into her chest, gathered up the loose veins and pushed them in after. Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck, she thought as she fumbled in her front pocket, where is it where is it, and then finally she found the glue.
Her hands were sopping wet, sticky, and when she twisted the cap she dropped the tube onto the dark ground. “No no no!” she yelled aloud, and grabbed the flashlight with one sticky hand as she grasped at the loose soil with the other. As she leant over the blood began to fall out in clumps. Finally she felt the tube under her fingers and grasped it. She stood up too quickly and had to wait for her vision to return. Her hand shook as she applied a thick ribbon of glue along the edge of the flesh, but finally she was done, and she pressed the flap firmly into her chest. She could feel the angry organ inside thump madly. After a few minutes she pulled her hand away and stared down at the bloody, goopy mess over her breast. She kicked the loose dirt over the rancid love in the hole and stomped on it until the soil was smooth. Then she dropped to the ground heavily, her elbows on her knees and her bloody hands, still stinking, covering her face. She began to cry. The love was gone, but her heart was cut up, and she knew it would be scarred forever. She felt empty, bereft. She wanted the love back. She wailed, her mouth hanging open, as the tears mixed with blood and dripped off of her chin. She clenched her hands into fists and lightly pounded on her forehead. She had been sad before. This was worse.
Finally she stopped crying. She breathed quietly in the darkness, and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. Then she rose, exhausted, and turned towards home.
Victoria Mack is a disabled writer, actor, and teacher who splits her time between Savannah, where she teaches at the Savannah College of Art and Design, and Brooklyn. She has been published in various lit mags, including Minerva Rising, Papeachu, Honeyguide, Oyedrum, South Shore Review, Kitchen Table Quarterly, Oddball, Flash Fiction Magazine, and Beyond Words. Her short play “Three Women” was produced in Philadelphia. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the Best of the Net Award. Her MFA is from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and her BA is from Barnard College. Website: www.victoriamackcreative.com.
Show Victoria some love via PayPal at victoriaellenmack(at)gmail(dot)com.