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June 21, 2022 2:07 am  #1


The Second Heart

TW: Graphic depiction of attempted suicide, suicidal ideation, panic attacks, blood
Disclaimer: This is a fantasy story about two soul mates who share a telepathic connection, not an attempt to show how a healthy romantic connection should really work, or how suicidality should be handled in real life. Real mental illness and suicide are not romantic and should be addressed with therapy, not just romantic attraction.


She knows she will find him. She has always known this. All throughout her life, there were moments in which she felt a second heartbeat. She would be in the classroom, or on the playground, or falling asleep, and suddenly she would feel a fast, shallow pounding that commanded all her attention, and an awareness of another human being’s emotion. She knew what it meant, because in her own moments of panic or violent sorrow, she felt the second heart again, this time calmer than her own, making her feel loved and reminding her that someone else could feel what she was feeling.

Now, in her 20s, the visits of the second heart are more frequent, and more intense. She does not know what troubles him, but she knows it is getting worse. She can no longer afford the spirals of depression that controlled her in childhood and adolescence – she calms herself to calm him, becoming almost psychopathically capable of slowing her pulse and quieting her emotions. She seeks out vividly joyful experiences, trying to vicariously console him, living for the satisfaction of feeling his heart rate drop into gentleness and sleep. It’s easy to do, because her hard days are behind her. Her every feeling is consumed by obsession with the second heart, with protectiveness over him. She has to find him, and the search is delicious.

She is walking home the first time she sees him, about a week after moving to New York for work. At first, she sees a ripple, a ripple runs through the grime on the twenty-foot bridge over a small wandering of river, it sings on the cobblestone blocks and murmurs and flows. The first things she has seen in years that is not grey in spirit. A rainbow in the oil. And she knows that somewhere, a man is crying.

As if in a lightning flash, as if in a dream, she sees him lying prone in rippled white bedsheets, the dusk from the window flowing over his trembling jaw. It dizzies her so much that she sways and cannot continue walking. She knows that he has been crying for so long that he is lightheaded. Is she hyperventilating, or is that only him? Her hands are filled with pinpricks and she rests them on the railing and stands for a long time, listening to his breathing, trying to steady herself as her own breathing grows heavy and husky with something…she cannot tell what. It sits in the pit of her throat and in her tingling wrists. She looks behind her, she spins, she searches the passing cars. Everything is so vivid, he is in everything. And he is close by. Where is he coming from?

This is him. This is him. There is no other.

He doesn’t understand why he feels so cold, as if he were standing outside in the wet, overcast, 8 PM air. But there is something precious about it. There is something so beautiful, which is denied to those who have never felt misery. Darkness is a woman, a woman who loves him, walking like the wind shaking the trees over the river. God, he can almost see this woman. A presence in the room…is this what the dying mean when they say that they can feel a presence with them in the room?

She struggles to walk the last block to her apartment on shaking legs, her head down, seeing nothing but fading sunset that throbs inside her. Shaking as she climbs the stairs. Shaking as she turns the key. She has to be alone with him. He feels a merciful rush of warmth.

The image is vague, more of an idea than a defined outline, but she can see him, she can finally see him. She closes her eyes to see him better, feels his soul reaching for her and hating himself for how the loneliness and helplessness translate into desire. He can see her too, the thick curls are soft clouds across her moon-shaped cheeks. His ears flood with rushing as the moon climbs through the window. Hours are passing. He is not actively trying to take his time, but he feels…he feels strangely peaceful. The blanket against his neck is her hand on the back of his head. In the morning, he doesn't remember falling asleep. He remembers seeing her standing over him, waves of dark hair touched by the electric tinge of the bathroom light that he left on and somehow slept that way. He remembers a second rhythm inside his chest as she lay down on top of him and held him all night.

At 2 AM, she writes an email to her boss, lying that she has been vomiting for hours and needs to take the next day off. Tomorrow will be the most important day of her life.

He wakes in a sweet haze and showers. He feels better than yesterday, more composed. He can make it to work. All the same, his mind is still set. He goes to the window, and like yesterday, the sky is a blank white page. Last night, he had such a beautiful dream. It will not leave him, he knows it will not leave him all day.

He dresses, black suede and tie. Through the doors of the stock exchange. Standing outside of himself in the throb of the red and blue letters, the dozens of screens. Seeing her face in the rhythm. Distracted when spoken to. The glass, bright blue with sky on the top floor as the clouds pull away around lunchtime. But he is too filled with a hopeful, nervous thrill and cannot eat. On the wall, there is a fire extinguisher, and above it, in stenciled paint, “Break glass in case of emergency.” Remembering stories he heard of a day in 1929 back in grade school and picturing a falling stock broker. His brother, his friend. This fire extinguisher, this falling man, these glassy wings spread out all around him, waiting to shatter into flight…they have been his friends, his companions, for so many years. And now he fears them. She is a fiction, he knows, he knows, but he lets himself pretend that he has something to live for. To die before he sees her…he fears this above all other things.

The thought of it tightens his chest and he listens to the gap in his own breathing, the sound of a taut string. All around her, she hears the traffic and the chatter go silent.

Where the hell is she? Will she come and find him already?

You’re kidding yourself, this girl from your dream is not real. You’re in denial. You need to end this tonight, you’re having some kind of delusional breakdown. But saying he’s in denial…that is the denial. The color flooding over the world speaks for itself, overrides all other thought. He has to channel it into work, or he will spontaneously combust. She is searching for him. She is searching for him. She is searching for him. He screams in his head, trying to help her to find him, and she jumps, turns left down a new street, and starts running.

His racing heart fuels him and he types frantically for hours. But it is not good enough. A command already sent. An altercation. You fucked up. You fucked up. You fucked up. Racing fear. She turns and sees his office tower in the distance, strangely familiar with dread, a wild black mark ranging over the city, marring the sky. That’s the place.
He fucked up. He fucked up again. He belongs in this prison of a building, or in the grave. Who cares if she’s coming, she won’t want him when she sees him. How dare he believe anyway that there is someone for him. His hands are shaking on the keyboard as he fights to remember what he meant to do next, staring straight ahead through his screen and not daring to blink as his vision goes blurry. But in a moment, the urge to blink becomes too strong and heavy tears fall into the lap of his slacks. On the sidewalk between a Gap and coffee shop, she briefly falls to her knees in awe at the vividness of his emotion, people streaming past her and giving her a wide berth, assuming she is one of the homeless in a mental breakdown.

He wipes quickly at reddened, glistening eyes. He has to get out before he starts sobbing in front of everyone. He is losing control as he jams paperwork into his worn laptop bag, now shaking so violently that he can’t accomplish the task. Just get out of the building, just get out, just get to the subway station and die. He can’t breathe and finally slams the suitcase shut with papers smashed at odd angles, panic overruling all other thought. From behind him, “Where the hell are you going? We leave at 9 tonight.”

She is running like hell, like she has never run before.

He runs past the shouts of “Hey!” and into the stairwell, so satisfied by the slam of the door behind him that he swings his suitcase into his own face and then against the ground, surrendering entirely to self-hate. He begins to batter his own head against his fists and the walls, still stumbling forward and down, now screaming with sobs that rake through his chest and dizzy him. Nothing satisfies the frustration. No one is coming to his aid, despite the screaming. No one cares if he lives or dies. He is hyperventilating now, his lungs ache. Surely he is going to die. Fragile, futile, ugly, miserable life. By accident at first, he moves down off of a landing and falls a few steps, the wind knocked out of him. He doesn’t know how many landings are below him, he only wants to be hurt as he deserves. He and keeps running, down and down and down, and then on impulse, throws himself over the railing.

Audibly, now looking crazier than ever, she screams, “NO!”

He does not make it very far. Two landings maybe? Or one, or three? Instant pain shoots through his torso as he sprawls over a lower railing and rolls forward onto the steps. It is only then that he realizes his forearm scraped against the concrete on the way down. The blood is soaking tattered fabric, shocking against the pale blue. His breathing somehow becomes even wilder, and his body is somewhere between icy cold and numb. The terror of death and of his own blood strikes him with full force. He tries to rise again, to get back over the railing and out of his body before he can feel the agony fully and be thrown into the futility of the lonely, arbitrary, absurd human form. Instead, he begins to collapse against the steps.

If he blacks out alone while bleeding and concussed, he could die. If he manages to do that again, he will surely die. She has to calm him down. In her desperation, she goes still in a frozen moment. What has she done when she needs to calm her own body most? As she has done so often, she finds herself attending to her own racing heart, bringing her breathing expertly into control. She wraps her wool coat closer against herself and searches her surroundings for beauty.

There is a second rhythm in his chest, and his own wild rhythm falls in with it. He feels that someone is in the stairwell with him. His clouded vision is interrupted by flashes of golden sunset as a warmth steals over him. Whether he is hallucinating or dreaming or dying, she is here. She is here. He doesn’t care if she’s real or not. He believes.

A rush of joy floods out the pain. “I love you,” she screams in her head, “don’t die. Come find me.” Over and over again. “I love you. Don’t die. Come find me.” Wordlessly, he feels her moving towards him, slowly but relentlessly now, fighting her own urge to run. She doesn’t know what floor he’s on, but she can see the building, less than two blocks away.

She might not know what floor he’s on. With a massive effort, he drags himself upright and through the door of the nearest landing, his face still periodically twisting with pain. No one spares him more than a grimacing glance as he summons the elevator, no one notices the blood dripping from his arm to his fingertips as he limps across the lobby and leaves a red smear on the revolving doors. Fuck them all.

Outside, there is a woman.

The sky has flooded with gold. It is the underside of a molten forge, waves of muddy yellow and rose flowing over towering clouds, far more massive than the usual tatters of smoke that rise from the factories. A late sunbeam flows down the steel canyons to kiss the dark curls wrapping her moon-shaped face, her button nose, her black wool pea coat. She has been walking for hours, and then running. She is exhausted and tendrils of hair cling to her wet forehead.

Brief flashes did not prepare her to see him. He is exquisitely broken, his dead eyes still pouring rivers that sparkle on long, dark lashes and run slick down the corners of his trembling mouth. She can’t look, she can’t look away. A thrill runs through her from throat to pelvis, so strong that between the weight of their dual exhaustion and exhilaration, she nearly faints. And underneath the brokenness, that steady core of courage that brought him to her. He stands planted, his gashed arms wide open, and stares at her in disbelief. A manly, final, commanding stare, demanding, “Help me.”

Now that he sees another human being in front of him, he questions his sanity one last time. Weakly, “Ae you…” But he collapses before he can finish speaking.

She leaps forward and catches him before he hits the sidewalk, curling around his mangled body. “Stay awake, please, please stay awake. Look how vivid you are to me. I’ve never felt more alive. Can you feel it?” People pass them, some pausing, some glancing down, none stopping. She pays the world no mind.

He nods against her with unspeakable joy, silenced by the lump in his throat again. Her hands are in his messy hair and wrapping her coat around his head to shield him from the cold as she encircles him. He can feel her protection against misery overwhelming the grey world in washes of gold with every beat of her heart. He nestles into the sweet smell of her perfume where his lips meet her waist, and hides his face against her as he begins to sob uncontrollably. She can feel the wetness of his eyes soaking hotly through the blouse to her skin. She physically holds him still, cradling his aching head as his body shudders with each breath. She holds him as tightly as she can, and he realizes that he is crying with a desperate gratitude. All his life, all his love…everything belongs to her now. He owes her his life, and he cannot wait to devote it to her.

Last edited by The Rescuer (June 22, 2022 1:30 pm)

 

June 22, 2022 1:49 pm  #2


Re: The Second Heart

This is extremely sweet, yet sad. I love your writing skills

 

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