There’s all these gaps between ribs and a way the muscles expand when breathing to make room in the body for air, and when she asks me what it will take to stop hiding and let someone in, this is what I am thinking of, the way even the body can’t close off all access to its organs, think too of those dumb animals that never learn to hide their exposed throats, that predator’s easy flesh, think of the animal parts of me that, like the deer one morning I saw passing in front of my car which startled at the sudden noise, have only learned to run.
“I don’t know what it will take,” I tell her, and it’s the truth.
“I’m trying,” I tell her, and this too is the truth, the one I think of one evening as I am sorting out cards in my living room, my hands smoothly sliding them into their respective piles. They are my husband’s, and like all things of his I am trying to render them innocuous, pretend that this messy, disorderly bucket of them isn’t also a reflection of his mental illness, the way it changed him in the end. I cannot fix anything with him. But I can sort the cards, straighten them into rows, line them all up. I can arrange by color, even alphabetize. I cannot fix the dead any more than I can fix the living. But I can clear the bucket.
What will it take, she had asked me, to be vulnerable with people I wish to care for or ones I already do, and I think of this as I sort the cards, what it means to have always in me two hearts, one that is his and one that might someday be someone else’s, because, like the way the body expanded when in breathing, there is room for both. But one is damaged and the other is new, and when she asks me what it will take I tell her I don’t know, I’m trying. Trying to learn to stand in front of someone even when afraid. To tell them so. To not, like that deer one morning on a roadway upon hearing the sound of my engine, startle and run. To hope they’ll wait. That they’ll be patient. That they’ll see how just like there are gaps between the ribs, there are gaps in my armor, some soft part of me that feels too much, that feels all the time, some soft part of me that is working its way towards daylight, like some barely sprouted seedling pushing its way through post winter dirt. Someone to see that I have two hearts. One of them is broken; one of them possibility. It just needs a little time to grow.
Time. Just a little time.
Maybe that’s what it takes.