From One Shut-In Heart, to Another
Cleveland, Ohio, USA
You must be tired of it. Of your wide eyes roving across the ceiling, making shapes out of grooves in the plaster. Of lying, alone, in endless blue bedrooms once the sun’s set. Of bitter salt tears crawling into the corners of your mouth while you try to sleep. I know, I know; you are the thing that I used to be, after all.
There’s an easy solution to it, though: A place for men and women with shut-in hearts like ours to buy lovers, first-kisses, and a little bit of warmth. It forms itself in one sudden slow-blink. You’ll be walking all your familiar streets and side-streets, when all at once, daffodils will bloom out the cracks in the pavement; Eden will open its eyes; and the wind will begin to pluck at harp strings. It tries to trick you, at first. To tuck itself away, to keep shut-in hearts wandering––but like an old, forgotten friend, it’ll recognize you. It’ll call half-heartedly from the center of a faceless crowd and hope you’ll see it.
Now, don’t be alarmed once you spot the eyes; they’re the first things I noticed, too, glowing through the dark in the display window. They’ll dissect you. Strip you down to bone, wrap you up and dart away and leave your naked blood shivering on the sidewalk––oh, but they’re gentle. So gentle. They reel you in.
A bell will jingle once you open the door and a store clerk will eye you lazily from behind the register, but don’t pay him any attention. Focus only on the people surrounding you, fleshed-out mannequins posed on loveseats, trying to hear the wind from the shut-up windows, passing by you with winning smiles and dissecting eyes: Lovers, searching for a bride-to-be.
You’ll choose the one that looks like all the singers and fairytale suitors you saw in dreams; the faceless first crush you had sat across in elementary school, passing on notes and pink Crayola valentines beneath the table; true loves shaped by words in dusty romance novels, whose reflections were built by syllables. Your convenience store lover will have fifteen different faces, and they’ll put on a new one each day.
Your altar will be lazy pink awnings and gloomy windows. Rose petals will be replaced by withered stems, but they’ll do. And in place of a ring, the store clerk will hand you a key before you pass wads of cash into his fingers. Your lover will guide your hands up to their chest and bare to you a dark, gaping keyhole, right at the center of their sternum. You’ll feel clockwork gears shift into place, see their skin liven and their darting eyes slow. Their rust will coat your hands and your silver key.
You and me, we were raised by TV screens and phantom mothers who taught us that love was something fabricated in between the lines of a screenplay. Taught us that it was built by mind-tricks and spur-of-the-moment promises and perfect kisses in the rain; that we were born in the black limbo of all the solitary hearts in the world until we found it, and like rope thrown out the towers that held us captive, it’d guide us back up to land. That’s why we cry into our hands at night in those still, blue rooms, isn’t it?
The day I bought my lover, he’d been wearing a wreath on his forehead made of broken twigs and the dandelions I used to pick as a kid, blowing out dreams of starry-eyed princes. When he smiled, one side of his mouth always quirked up a second before the other, and it would only reach one eye. Then, that very same night, as I straightened the sheets of our marriage bed, I looked over at him and suddenly he was wearing callouses on his hands, wild hair bunched up behind his head. And it was such a shame––I’d already vowed myself to dandelion-wreaths and one-eyed smiles. But each night, I had to go and do it all over again: To fall in love with a man, piece-by-piece, rusted key in one hand.
There’s something you’ve got to understand: Store-bought lovers carry side effects around with them. Don’t let this dissuade you, though; a changing face, clockwork lungs, haphazard ceremonies––they’re all such small shortcomings compared to the weight of a thousand lonely nights on your tired shoulders. You can be at ease, now. Those lonely nights have all come and gone.
The wanting never really goes away, though, I’m sorry to say. Even as his I love yous pierced me suddenly from all corners of the room, as I held the cold concrete of his body at night, kissed new lips each sunrise––my eyes were always searching for the ghost of the one-eyed smile I’d seen our first day together. Sometimes I’d catch little traces of it melting off his new morning face, but it was always gone by the afternoon.
Any time you feel it creep into you, wrapping its black fingers around your shoulders, just wait for the nighttime. Soon enough you’ll forget how to find shapes in ceilings, how to fall in love with something that has no reflection at all. All you’ll know is how to stare, wide-eyed, through the window with his back against yours; to listen to the lazy whirs and hums of his gears winding down; and in those weeping nights, you’ll crown yourselves King or Queen of your own blue Nowhere. You’ll cry and cry, but you can’t build kingdoms out of satin sheets all by yourself, you know.
Through its surreal depiction of a shop that sells lovers to people with “shut-in hearts,” “From One Shut-In-Heart, to Another” dives headfirst into the human yearning for love and fear of being alone. We follow our narrator as they grasp at the reality of adulthood, attempting to grow accustomed to their new lover, who is an unsettling amalgamation of countless faces and blurry personalities. By the end, the piece thoroughly dismantles the rusting pieces of childhood fairytales and clichés, scattering them before the reader to form a masterful commentary on the true meaning of intimacy and human connection.
Karma Abboud is a high school freshman, aesthete, and lover of Victorian novels. Her work has previously appeared in The Blue Marble review.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR