Looking back now, I wondered why it?s sometimes difficult to admit how quickly things changed. Like doing so would be an admission of my weakness, foolish vulnerability to all the tricks that blur the line between what is real and permanent and not. Then again, when I was I ever that strong to begin with?

I don?t know exactly how it happened, but I do know the exact date, hour, minute, and second that I realized that it had. It happened on the thirty-sixth second past twelve o?five on the fifth of October. The actual time was thirty-six seconds after twelve o?clock at noon, because that clock was always five minutes ahead. I feel strange, unstable, as if there is nothing holding me together, I feel the layers and particles of skin and bone and marrow would much rather dissociate completely than spend another minute as part of one being. Perhaps I was looking for her, maybe I was lonely, I don?t know.

My skin seems filmy, almost translucent, and every part vibrates at that odd, familiar frequency of my heart striking within my chest like a piece of flint. It was growing louder, more forceful with each passing second. The valves open and shut with a sharp, bitter clank, like a hammer coming down on an anvil. I turn to face her, but the bed is empty. The noise becomes unbearable, I run downstairs. I find her in the kitchen pouring a glass of water. I press her hand to my sternum so she can feel the contractions rattling my bones. I ask her to take it from me, my voice cracks and is reedy and thin in a way that bothers me, but I realize that I don?t hate it nearly as much as I do the shaking my chest. I don?t try to suppress the tremors in my voice. She nods, and I close my eyes.

She grabs a butter knife sitting on the counter and slices my chest open. I feel my upper ribs swing outwards as if they were repulsed by one another. There is no pain, the layers of muscle peel back by their own volition. As she does it, swarms of incomplete thought clouding the back of my brain coalesce momentarily into questions: is this smart? Is this prudent? Do I actually love her? Does that matter? The questions disappear as fast as they appeared. It?s over.

Gingerly, as soft as a new mother held her baby, she holds my heart in one hand and lays it carefully up on the nearby table over a sheet of plastic saran wrap. She fetches a small cardboard box, a few packing materials- a mix of Styrofoam kernels and bubble wrap, and begins to pack. I hear my heartbeat grow muffled as she wraps layer upon layer, allow only a faint echo to escape. Eclipsed by the sound of the wind rushing through an open window into my chest, she labels the box. Writing in plain but bold with a marker she struggled loose from her purse she writes, ?Jeremy?s? on the box.
?There,? she says with a smile on her face, ?it?s done.? I smile. I?ve decided it was the right choice. We spend the rest of the day popping the remaining bubble wrap.

After the fact, in the absence of that incessant, nagging beat, I have the time that I had not had then to consider how wise my decision truly was. However, I now do not have the will. I am happy now, so happy, in fact, that I became radioactive. Parts of me begin to decay spontaneously. I lose ten pounds, then five, then two and a half, and so on. I never figured out what it was that made my heart race, if it was her or some insidious, deep-rooted fear of isolation, I don?t want to...

She keeps my heart on her side of the room, under the night stand, so that the muffled beat cannot bother me. I hear her heartbeat instead, which is slower, steadier. Somehow, mine is never completely gone and I still hear it, jagged, slightly arrhythmic, in the space between beats. In the time it was removed it seemed to have grown louder, to compensate perhaps for its distance. This in itself does not bother me, what bothers me is that I find myself wanting to hear it. I toss and turn, moving closer to her at night, not specifically because of her, nor do I tell her this, but because of the heart, my heart. Because as much as I needed to be with someone as much as I do believe and always have believed this, I find myself wishing to be reminded that there once was me without her.

She figured it out, of course she would. There wasn?t that much to figure out was there? With that she was gone. I can?t say it upsets me. I see the difference now, between the real and permanent and not, all the sorry tricks my mind was playing on itself. There?s only one small problem now. She was in such a hurry to leave, damn, she took the box.