Learning to Love My Heart Murmur

I dance during the commercials because I’m in love with my heart— 

Stanley from The Office (or at least the guy who plays Stanley)

in a Honey Nut Cheerios commercial. Fitting, since his character

suffers a coronary, and it’s nice to watch him smile here, sashaying across his hardwood floor

in slippers and a bathrobe, professing a love for his body which most

only know as fear— 

                    like that day when I donated plasma for the first time

and a nurse, surveying my naked chest with a stethoscope,

told me I had a heart murmur. But they’re usually harmless, he said. But I didn’t know

how harmless. My grandpa thought his was harmless, now he’s dead— 

one second he’s drinking lite beers and scaling bass, next second

he’s laying in the emergency room, staples in his sternum, tubes

snaking in and out of his chest and nose. It’s hard to love

something that could give up or give out so suddenly.

My band teacher had his first heart attack at only thirty-four, and it played out

like some bad joke: shingling his mom’s roof one summer, and when 

that heart-in-a-vice sensation finally struck, and he dropped his nail gun

and cried for help, “Kickstart My Heart” started playing on the radio.

A week after I learned about my murmur, you and I

were at that bar where some dance but most, like us,

drink and linger on the margins. You nursed a daiquiri, while I sipped

red wine, since that’s supposed to help—right? And I thought

it was smart of me to say, Bars like this are for people who’ve given up dancing

and those who’ll give it up soon. 

                            And you deflated my ego, said to me,

That’s true everywhere.  

Lane Chasek’s work has appeared in or is forthcoming in Broke BohemianHole in the Head ReviewNorth Dakota QuarterlyPlainsongs, and others. Chasek’s first book, Hugo Ball and the Fate of the Universe, is currently available from Jokes Review Press.

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