The darkest things I know are not mine to tell. You see, I grew up easily ignored. I followed rules, I shut up, I completely disappeared. By the time I was eight, I thought I was incapable of crying because I refused to let myself break down. The only thing I allowed myself to do was listen.
I grew up in a small town, everything was gossip. And I heard every detail. I could tell you the names of people who were raped. Children who hurt their parents so badly they considered suicide. Names of kids and adults alike who killed dogs and threw cats for the fun of it.
I knew military guys who held regrets and kids who had to cry themselves to sleep every night because of their pasts. I knew people who got off easy for crimes they should have been put into prison for.
I knew and I never told a soul, because these secrets are not mine to tell.
A Jar of Hearts
I have a jar of hearts on my dresser. Most everyone does. My mother gave it to me when I was little. She told me to be careful who to give my hearts to, for one day I would run out. I took her words and my jar and set them down to think. I knew I was only to give my hearts to those I truly cared about and wanted them to care about me.
I felt obligated to give some to my mother and then also to my father. I gave some to my brothers and sisters. I gave some to my best friends and some to my neighbors too. When my relatives flew down to have dinner with us, they asked me for some hearts, and I, of course, obliged.
There were plenty of hearts to go around. I thought that my mother must be wrong, I could never run out. Slowly, one by one my hearts left my jar. I gave them to my favourite teachers, my friendly co-workers, my boyfriends who left without a word, my 'friends' who I would hang with for a week or two before they found someone new. I kept giving because that was what I was asked to.
No one refused my hearts, and so they left me. One by one. People drifted out of my life and soon my jar of hearts sat on my dresser. It had only a few hearts left. I knew what happened to people without hearts. They ended up in hopeless hospitals, waiting days and days for a cure that would never come. Doctors were not foolish enough to give their hearts to patients, there were too many begging for hearts, and not enough to fill their jars.
And so I closed my jar and hid it away. It stays, cushioned between pillows and blankets. Protected in a box from the world that takes.
My sister visited me the other day. She took my hand and gave me a twirl. We danced without music for the first time, and it felt better than giving away a heart. She told me about her new job. I only understood every other word, but I loved the way she said them.
I saw my old friend from grade school in the deli on his lunch break. We chatted and he asked to meet for coffee. I told him I had given up caffeine, so he suggested getting a bite to eat instead. So we did, and it felt like the concept of eternity being described to a small child. I was in awe and we clicked almost immediately, but I did not want him to stop talking. I did not want him to leave.
My grandfather died. He gave all his hearts to the hospital. It was over two million that he had collected. I listened as the speaker described his entire life story with a melodic voice of chimes. It was like knowing him for the first time, and I wished I knew him sooner. Apparently, I had an aunt who died at a hopeless hospital, and he did not want any more to suffer the same fate. I'm glad that some of my hearts went to a good cause.
A stranger saw that I was lost and took out his ear plugs and asked if I needed directions. He gestured and gave me landmarks to keep me straight. I told him my thanks and he nodded before muting himself back from the world.
I found my jar again. I put it on my dresser, where the sun can hit it and it makes the little hearts that are left glow. No, I do not have a full jar of hearts, but I have something even better. My experiences of people that I do not have to know well in order to love them.
I may not ever understand my sister. I may not ever be able to see my old friends without feeling like getting to know an old stranger. I may not ever be able to live up to my grandfather's passion. I may not ever be able to make an impact on others as they do to me, but I can love them for it. Love the moments that teach me to be kind and to love them without giving up my entire jar of hearts.
It is not that I will never give another heart away. It is that when I do chose to give away my hearts, they will be for more than a reason of obligation or because they ask for it. It will be because I care about them and I trust them to care about me.
A Yellow Rose
I gave him a yellow rose
And he smiled.
He said no one had ever given him a flower before.
I told him it means friendship.
He pulled an arm around me
And told me the same stories I've heard a million times.
I smiled as best I could
As he pulled me down the path
Tucking myself against the cold.
I gave him a yellow rose
But I wanted to give him red.
Watch Me Burn
As my world burned around me, I closed my eyes one last time. Solutions truly do stare people in the eyes until they are taken. I cross my arms and fall back into the flames.