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March 3, 2015 Fiction

What To Do with the Pain In Your Chest

Courtney Sender

What To Do with the Pain In Your Chest photo

Excise it.  Use a cheese wire, a hanger, something electromagnetic, something sharp.  Slice it out.  Serve it on a plate.  Eat it.  Grow bigger through it.  Gnaw and swallow.  Always feel you’re swallowing something.  Always be growing hungrier.

Harness it.  Fuel your car, your plane, your rocket ship.  Advertise it: Forget oil, say.  Forget wind, solar, nuclear.  Here, a raw fuel source that never runs dry.  Don’t mention how quickly its fumes make you choke.  Call it organic.  Call it local.  Call it free.

Nurse it.  Hold it to your chest and tell it, Latch.  Nourish it.  Feed it in public.  Protect it.  Pick it up and rock it every time it starts to moan.

Name it.  Start to recognize it.  Call its nickname like an old friend when it passes on the sidewalk.  Wave it off down your driveway with a teasing twinkle in your eye.  Say, See you soon!  Say, Welcome back!

Invest it.  Hope the market’s bullish.  Plan the vacation you’ll take, when you sell.  Buy a swimsuit, just in case.  Observe the bullish market.  Watch your stocks rise.  Think: Not yet.  Not yet.  Not yet.

Braid it.  Weave it.  Purl it.  Turn it to tapestries, sweaters, wall hangings, blankets, rugs.  Use it to feel soft.  Use it to feel warm.

Hang it in your closet.  On your shoe rack.  In your car.  Fasten it to a flagpole rope and hoist.  Make it your nation.  Pledge your allegiance.  Stamp your passport.

Defend it.  Earn a JD.  Go to court.  Cry on the witness stand.  Lay your hand on the Bible.  Lay your hand on your heart.  Say, No, not possible.  Say, It was with me the whole time.

Dress it up.  Show it off.  Introduce it to your friends.  Slip its photo into your wallet.  Woo it.  Take it to the movies.  Buy it dinner.  Let it grow big in your attention.

Play stickball with it.  Play poker.  Play golf.  Hand it to your caddy, watch your caddy drive away.  Chase down the cart.  Wave your arms.  Uncap the Sharpie in your pocket, lean across the steering wheel.  Label it yours.  Step back.  Let the caddy drive.

Return it.  Find the receipt next to a twist-tie in your kitchen drawer, drive downtown, wait in line, find the salesman who hawked it to you now working Customer Service.  Lower your eyes.  Slide it across the counter.  Say, I’ve decided I don’t want this anymore.

Evict it.  Bench press, chest press, push-up, grow until it’s got no space.  Pass it on the sidewalk.  Don’t speak; swallow its nickname.  Drop a nickel in its cup.  Feel sorry for it.  Take out a classified on its behalf.  Lie.  Good tenant, write.  Reliable.  Not too noisy.  Clean.

Throw it.  Overhand, underhand, shotput, javelin.  How far can you pitch it away from its source?  Always so close you can measure the distance.

Smoke it.  Light a match.  Make its molecules shudder, tear away, turn to gas.  Get so high on it the world drops out of focus.  Float on it.  Savor it.  Come back down.  Roll again.  Light again.  Inhale.  Wait.  Take another hit.  Another.  Notice your tolerance changing.  Notice how long you can drag.  Wake up one night, coughing.  

Embalm it.  Shellac it.  Gild it.  Freeze it.  Tweeze its brain out through its nostrils.  Bind it.  Hold it.  Tie it up in chains.

Sleep with it.  One darkening afternoon, take it suddenly in your hands and kiss it, hard.  Straddle it.  Choke it.  Pin it down.

Indenture it.  Master it.  Make it break in half for you.  Watch it take off running in the middle of the night, while you’re in the backyard, digging.  Wait a day.  Sit sipping whiskey in the chair on your front porch.  Don’t see it sneak back in through your kitchen window.  Dress for bed.  Find it under your covers, unwilling to move.  Pull up a pallet.  Lie down beside it.  In the morning, hear it tell you, I feel hungry.  Rifle through the pantry, crush the matches on the kitchen floor, come up empty.  Shuffle to the bedroom.  Bear your chest.  Say, Gnaw.

Drown it.  Hold it underwater until the bubbles stop.  Drain the bathtub.  Spread your legs uncomfortably when next you take a shower, stand on tiptoe, lather, don’t look down.

Eviscerate it.  Asphyxiate it.  Quash it.  Clutch it so hard in your fist it disappears.  Wash your hands.  Smell your palms: soap.   

Neglect it.  Lock it in the closet.  Say, What’re you gonna do, call the cops?  Say, That’s right.  Say, And stay there.

Bury it—at midnight, in the backyard, the moon your only witness.  Plant it.  Watch a tree grow up from the spot, years later.  Think, Huh.  Think, Didn’t know I ever watered, all the way down there.

Frame it.  Untack the wallet-sized photo from the corkboard beside your calendar.  Phone the local art museum.  Ask if there’s an empty wall in their collection.  Suggest: An unadorned bathroom?  An emergency exit?  Tell them you’ve got the solution.  Tell them you’ve got something good at filling blank space. 

Solve it.  Discover algorithms that predict, prevent, and prove it.  Publish your findings.  Wait for peer review.  Be discredited.  Double check your numbers, find no errors.  Re-run the numbers.  Wrong.

Betray it.  See someone else on the side while you’re at work, someone from your office.  Sneak out during lunch breaks.  Wash their smell off, legs spread in the shower.  Convince yourself it will go on just fine without you.

Misplace it.  Put it somewhere safe and forget where.  Tear your house apart searching, strew matches and twist-ties across the kitchen floor, lift the drawers off their hinges, dump them upside down, sift through the mess, find nothing.  Run the tap.  Sprinkle salt in your water glass.  Rinse out your mouth.  Spit.  In your crispest voice, call out, Hello?

Forget it.  Wake before work, see it beating a retreat in your withdrawing dream, want to summon it back.  Try.  Extend your arms, inhale, cough your voice into your throat, swallow, open your mouth, realize with a start that you cannot even recall the forlorn cadence of its name.

image: Aaron Burch


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