Ways A Heart Can Break

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I wonder how many ways there are for a heart to break? I don’t mean the myriad causes of heartbreak. We’re all too familiar with those. Instead, I mean it in the metaphysical sense.

 

#1

 

A chip in the surface. A stray stone ricocheted. The smallest crack in the center, and then the lines start to radiate. Until one day, weakened beyond repair by these fractures, it gives up and shatters into a thousand shards. Or, perhaps that one chip and those radiating cracks lead to:

 

#2

 

Piece by piece, day by day, the shards fall and clatter to the floor until what’s left is barely recognizable at all.

 

#3

 

Or is it singed by a roiling fire, surrounded on all sides? The edges blacken and blister and curl inward, fleeing the flames. Until it finally ignites. It burns, exultant in its temporary incandescence even while it knows what future awaits. A blackened husk, with the slight glow of embers within and the slow smoke curls drifting upward, the only reminder of how it once burned.

 

#4

 

Perhaps it’s a tear in the side? A popped stitch. A splitting seam. Too full or just poorly made, it will never know. The rodents and the birds, eager to use its innards for their own ends, constantly clawing and pecking. The inevitable widening of the tears, until all it was falls to the floor, and all that is left is a flapping husk.

 

#5

 

Maybe it’s left in a cold, unforgiving place. Either cast out from the light or born into the cold. The ice nips at its edges, that cold burn. Until it’s soothed by the freezing, the ice crystals coating it like armor. Unaware the lack of pain is just the lack of feeling. Layer by layer, the cold seeps in until it is as cold within as it is without.

 

#6

 

Or maybe it’s slashed. A furtive clawing by razor-sharp and focused knives. Blood running rivulets down the surface, stick and wet and warm. The copper tang of its essence quickly fleeing what was so hearty and full. Until all that is left is membranous wreckage without purpose.

 

#7

 

Then there is, perhaps, the most frightening of all. Because it comes on so slowly, there’s little hint of danger—the slow calcification. The hard little nugget within that expands in silence. It grows in absence and in turning away. It’s so slow and so relentless and leaves each part it touches feeling like a locked, empty room whose purpose no one can even remember. Until all that once was is dense and heavy and leaden. Left only with a faraway ache of what it once was. Just a vague nostalgic fondness with all context forgotten.

 

***

 

There are probably a thousand more ways or variations on these ways. Perhaps each heartbreak is like a fingerprint. Similar to all the others, but if you look closely, utterly unique as well. Or maybe they’re all the same. Mass-produced things, injected plastic into steel molds, that we only think are precious and unique when they are ours.

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