From the farthest corner of my studio the afternoon sun poured in with that sleepy, deep amber that gives life to dust. It inspired in it a dance of gratitude that reflected all that light into the darkest of corners. It was iimpossible for my heart to be anything but full. It was the best part of my day. Morning classes were done. Evening classes hadn’t yet begun. The world was at work. And I was alone in the safe haven of my room. A room that I had envisioned and brought to life to cultivate freedom of expression for the Divine Feminine. A safe space for the forsaken women of this small corner of Massachusetts. Free to roam this space and time, I pulled together bits of my past and breathed new life into them with the healing, compassion, and creativity that the space compelled.
Rummaging through a file cabinet I came across a box of hearts. Blue Lapis hearts, pink quartz hearts, crystal hearts, heart-shaped stones combed from the shores of Gloucester, Cape Cod, and the islands, red plastic hearts that someone left at my doorway, and a brass heart given to me by a German artist. It was this last heart that moved me away from the task at hand.
The heart was really two hearts, shaped from brass, joined at the point and folded so that one heart made a base to hold the other up. Far from being instrumental, the base, when the light faced the sculpture, acted as its shadow. When used for its intended purpose - to hold a candle, it held the flickering light that shined through a slit carved through the middle of the heart.
“Look at the wall” its creator commanded. I looked. A heart danced large and full of life on my wall. I was speechless. All I could summon was a gasp. He smiled.
This heart seemed so kitsch at first glance, but, somewhat like poetry, once you pondered the object, it illuminated astounding and profound truths!
Taking my phone, I pulled this heart out of the box and walked to the West side of the studio where the sun streamed in the brightest. I held it up to the sun pouring in through the last window facing Worcester Road and gasped. The light exploded through the slit. I managed to take a picture before the surge of emotion consumed me. In the shelter of my safe haven, I let the tears well.
I was probably in my mid-twenties when someone asked me to design an invitation for the Pediatric Hem/Onc fundraiser. I had just returned to Boston from art school in New York and was desperately trying my hand at making abstract collages like the ones I had seen the brilliant kids do in class. I was an illustrator. I could draw what I saw, but… create something new from something that was thrown away? That was genius to me.
To summon a concept, I turned to advice I’d gotten from my High School English teacher. “Write about something you know, care about, and can communicate” wrote Mrs. Metzger, on my journal. “What do I know?” I asked myself. “Heartbreak.” I answered.
And so I cut out a big, black heart and cut a big slit down the center to resemble a break. Then, using my Exacto knife, I cut smaller hearts out of the Pantone papers I had lying around. Vivid neon hearts in pink, green and orange littered my actual (not virtual) desktop. “Let your heart break” I thought, “and give birth to thousands of little hearts”. All those parents who lost their children to something so random as cancer, related to that message. It inspired them to give to those children who might stand a chance. Death is necessary for new life.
The door to my studio creaked open and the students to my first class stopped to sign their name on the roster. I wiped my eyes and smiled at them with the gratitude I felt for their presence. Leading them through steps, and combos, and the lightness they were capable of, I moved my way straight into bliss.
At the end of the night the yoga students filtered out one-by-one and J took his time, rolling up his mat and pulling on his shoes. The last student left and I turned to J, “are you hungry?” “Starving!” he answered. “Margaritas is on my way home” I answered. “Fine with me” he answered. And I locked up the studio, leaving the work that was due for the next day.
I gave J the third degree that night. Months had passed since he invited me to his birthday celebration and we were spending a lot of time together. He had started to come around on weekends to help me at the studio. I was starting to look forward to hearing from him. I wanted to know if he was interested in more than friendship. What were his intentions?
“Were you ever married? I asked, “No.” he answered. I checked my alarm - He was in his forties. Men in their forties who have never been married were unlikely to ever marry. “Have you ever lived with a woman?”, I asked “I live with a woman right now.” he answered, and added, “She’s a friend of my brother’s. When I moved here I didn’t have a place to live so my brother asked if I could stay with her until I got situated. She bought a house because she was getting married and wanted to start a family.” “How long ago was that?” I asked, trying to do the math. “Twelve years ago. Her fiance left just before the wedding and she was in bad shape. I had been looking at rents and couldn’t find anything I liked, so I took her out to dinner. It just seemed like a good idea for me to stay with her. She has a boyfriend now.”
“Any serious relationships?” I asked. “Not really” he answered, “I moved here to help my brother with his candle business. I was working really hard and saving money, so, there wasn’t really room for a relationship.” he answered, “Ok” I thought. He continued, “That’s the thing. I was working really hard and had no time to enjoy life, so, now I’m taking a break and enjoying my life for a while.” It made sense. Having just closed my own business, I can especially relate to that now.
There had, apparently, been one girl, a single mother from “the group”. They went out for 8 months after he closed his business.
After dinner we stepped outside into the warm Spring night. “My car is over there” I said, pointing towards the back. “Mine is right here”, he said, pointing straight ahead. He stepped forward for our usual hug. I squeezed tighter and pressed my body into his this time. He relaxed his hold and brushed his cheek against mine. I tilted my head up. He pulled away. “What the fuck?” I thought, confused, and looked at him. He started to walk away. I stood there. He turned. His eyes shone with more lights than the stars in sky on that clear night. I waited. He hesitated, jerking slightly as if he was going to come back for more, but held himself back. I stood there. He slowly turned and walked away. “I guess he’s not interested” I thought, and walked back to my car.
“I wanted to kiss you so bad that night outside of Margarita’s”, he told me later. “I was kicking myself the whole ride home. I thought you had a boyfriend, so, I wanted to be respectful of your relationship.” Fair enough. Though he had asked about my relationship and I told him that it didn’t have a future, I can understand the confusion.
“Paulina, if you wanted to know if he was interested in you, you should have just asked him!” my friend said when I told her about that night. “You’re right. I guess I never really told him what I wanted.”
Months later I lay next to J in his bed. He turned to me. I saw that same look in his eyes. It gave life to the dusty cliche, “the twinkle in your parents’ eyes!” His eyes were definitely twinkling! “What?” I asked. He turned away. I stared. He turned back to face me. His eyes shone brighter than the full moon outside the window. “I love you” he said. I rolled over and buried my face in his armpit so he would not see the tears welling up in my eyes.
“I love you, too!”
An open heart shines light onto the world. The light that shone through J’s eyes that night reflected my own longing for someone to give all that I had stored in the dark recesses of my heart. Love that had been carelessly treated, thrown away, savagely threatened, or neglected lived there waiting for the person who could recognize and ignite it. J and I were reflections of each other. Somehow we had made it through the perilous journey to that point in time with our desire to give love still intact. In that moment, with our twin sparks combusted, they flickered into flames that moved together in a dance of gratitude.