It was fairly torn already when I got it. I dusted it off and ran my fingers along the shreds poking out from the aorta. It kicked back, weak and barely regular, a sweet heartbeat. It was felt, and the pulmonaries were cheap velvet, but it would work. I needed function, not luxury. How much? I asked the shopkeep and he said eight dollars. I argued down to five, paid him and left. Walking down the road, the thing in my pocket, caressing it with two fingers like a lover’s palm, I was so excited it blistered my skin. I usually saw people looking at me, noticing my gait or the shift to my eyes and recognizing dissimilarity, but today there were none. I was one of them, or on my way to it. They must have known.
I got home and hit every lock on my door. I put the thing on the table and rushed around my apartment to get the materials I’d need. Thread, needles, etc. I wasn’t much for sewing or artistry, but I could do surgery. It beat, slow and sad, as I fucked it again and again with the needle. The thread ran through it piston-quick and sweat fell around my project, my moment. Finally, the dissection sealed. I gave it one final tug, then snipped the string and smiled. It was beautiful. The little heart winced, hiccupped, then started thumping like one ought to. I traced the felt once more before proceeding.
I needed a knife and a hammer of some sort. Sternums are tough and bone is not meant to be broken. I grabbed a paring knife and a mallet, one of those for tenderizing meat, with the rough patterned face, and lay down on the table. My legs hung over at the knee and half of my skull was over open air, but that was fine. It didn’t matter if I was comfortable.
I grabbed the knife first, turned it over and poked at the edge. It was sharp. I pressed it to my chest and the tip split my skin with ease, tracing into my soft meats. A lazy circle wept blood wide around my nipple before I peeled it back. The muscle, red and yellow-white, latticed across my chest. The mallet was next. I raised it high, took a deep breath, and brought it down on my open wound. Blood splashed, drops peppered my neck and chin and face. I brought it down again. Another hot spray, my ribcage shrugged. Again. Again. Again. My teeth gnashed and I could feel the blood drying on my skin in drooping layers of latex paint. Finally, the bone crunched and splintered inwards. Yellow-white shards tore through sloughing meat and air rushed into my chest cavity. I breathed like never before, hot and cold at the same time, shredding my lungs with wet needles. The ceiling above was drenched in my colors.
I reached into the hole and sank filthy digits into the organs. They lay on each other and spasmed like dying fish as I felt around for my heart. I brushed it with my index first, caught it mid-beat and ripped it out. It squirmed and thrashed in my fist, so I squeezed. Juices oozed through my fingers and I dropped it off the side of the table. I grabbed the new one, sewn up, and eased it in. It was small, but the veins and cords and wires and all bits of me latched onto it and pulled. It beat faster, stronger, and my blood pulsed.
Cleanup took some time. I had to duct tape my hole shut, let the healing do the rest, and spend hours bleaching the blood and flesh and bone. I scrubbed until every bit of red was gone. Clean again, renewed. It stank of sterility and death. I was gathering the last shards of my sternum and tossing them into a garbage bag when I kicked something mid-step. My old, crushed little friend was gasping on the floor. It was almost white now, smashed like an empty milk carton, but still beating. Still trying. I picked it up with just two fingers and stared at it. It thumped, contracted, and went still. I tossed it in the bag.
Amity // Languor
I am nursing my anxiety
when you walk by the window
with your red hair
you’ve never looked so beautiful
I am drawn to women
who know themselves so well
the people around them
for a few hours, or an evening,
which is why I call you
at three in the morning
to listen to you sleep
and stare at the picture I took
after you said that cameras
steal part of your soul,
or sneak my knee over to touch yours
while you read me excerpts from A Lover’s Discourse
or dictate endless roman a clef
to unmanned keyboards.
Now we are waiting for traffic to die
on the street corner where I learned
it’s okay to smile at strangers
or even make eye contact
without running away,
and you are naming
the lovers you have had,
fondling a cigarette.
You smoke when you’re nervous.
You smoke when you’re happy.
You smoke before sex
You smoke like a blown-out candle
one of those scented ones you light
when you smoke in your home.
You smoke to compliment the wine that you drink,
it’s cheap wine but no one knows that
unless you tell them,
so you don’t tell them.
You smoke and call it a disgusting habit.
You smoke because it’s sexy.
You smoke like Camus
and Audrey Hepburn, too.
You smoke and persist
to describe in detail
every man you ever hurt
and every man you ever loved.
I don’t hear my name,
but I’m just getting to know you.
Carl Gercar is an American mutt born in Illinois. When Carl was twelve, his abusive father died, and his mother and grandmother raised him from then on. He went to college in Minneapolis, majoring in neuroscience, before abandoning his career path to work odd-jobs and write. When not reading or writing, Carl spends his free time with other Chicago-based artists.