The confirmation skittered across my skin like sand. I felt the tiny pinpricks hit my skin, then burrow under, stinging as it went. My arms prickled with discomfort. I rolled my shoulders up to my ears, trying to keep the fuzzing pain away from my head.
No, it was not sand. Pepper. Black as coal and crushed from their whole, round forms to something less, something deficient.
My heart did some sort of odd cardiovascular origami. I couldn’t be sure if this was a heart attack or the feeling of love. As a child I had assumed they would be easy to tell apart, but now I wasn’t so sure. Was it he who ruined this, or me? Something was wrong. A feeling of inadequacy lurked behind every word, every action he made, boiling into a thick black sludge slowly overtaking everything he did. I felt the sludge on my hands, goopy and unpleasant. It stained the lines in my palms and rose like bile on my tongue, pushing out the truth. The grit underneath my eyelids accumulated in the corners of my eyes and gouged out any affection I’d had for the sight of him.
He really was so, so sweet. He just wasn’t…. sufficient. I couldn’t explain it then, to his sad eyes, nor can I tell you know quite how suffocated I felt. How cruel, how vindictive, how…
I tamped down the alien feeling, unable and unwilling to unravel the emotions behind it.
I could only hope it was a heart attack.
His jaws still moved, up and down, up and down, as he spoke. More words, like sand, cavorted and swirled into huge dunes full of feelings and hopes.
My heart squished around a little, looking for a comfortable place to hide from that particular shard of truth. I lodged it firmly under my sternum, hoping that would be some brand of shelter.
I focused on his mouth, the crisp noises of teeth hitting tongue and the soft rasp of lips smashing and pulling apart. He was speaking words, I was sure of it. I just couldn’t fathom the meaning. So instead I focused on his adam’s apple, sticky with residual anxiety. It seemed he couldn’t swallow properly. It kept getting stuck, mired in the ugly tangled-up words he threw at me. I felt like my mind was being enmeshed with cobwebs.
My heart never broke. Not quite like his did. Mine only folded, curling in on itself and then unfurling again as soon as the soft parts of my emotions were no longer in danger. It was never my heart that was torn, only creased. An extra line, an extra wrinkle. I never had to repair myself, or lick my wounds. I didn’t have any. I only inflicted them.
But I hope he’s alright. I hope he finds some sweet girl, one that deserves him. One who can see past all the stupid things I couldn’t. A girl who wouldn’t be faced with her own insecurities so much, she’d drive away the one who could see past them. I hope he’s happy, I hope he’s forgotten all about me. I hope he’ll introduce her to his mom, and it will go so much better than when he introduced me, and I hope I never cross his mind again, except perhaps to look back on old mistakes.
And I hope my crumpled-up heart can be ironed out, straightened up, until someone will ignore the paper-cuts I give them, and tear right past the fear into the softness.
After all, origami is the ancient art of making something flat and lifeless beautiful.