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art by Shot Hot Design

Heart on Green Paper

He loved her like she was food after he was lost at sea, like she was air run through a mountain forest. He said it was for forever and thought it was true.
She wanted to stay casual and open. She wanted to travel and build adventure.
He mentioned kids on their first date. He wanted to build her a house with two floors and a view of mountains and arid land.
She wanted to be a runner or a cellist or a cop. When he showed her the ring, hidden in a twenty-dollar box of chocolates, she said, "Maybe."
They never married but stayed together till he grew tired and grey and bored. She packed their house onto a truck and left him sleeping underneath a cactus. She told everyone he died. But really she just left for wetter land.
She insisted she never missed him, but constructed a double of her husband in origami. She wrote his heart into a haiku on green paper. She pulped his old love letters with her tears and ironed in pressed flowers from their fallow garden. She made kneecaps and joints, hinged ligaments, and a flaccid cock. For his black eyes she used alcohol to squeeze ink from musical scores he'd composed for her.
Over the new husband's paper body, she folded a black paper suit, like he was perpetually attending a funeral. She fitted him with shoes and a folded fedora. When he opened his eyes, she clapped her hands and they danced to the sound of the rain on their roof. They joked that he looked like a blues musician who had sold his soul to the devil. He lay on top of the covers and they held hands while she slept.
Everything was as it should be and they lived happily ever after.
Until his edges began to wilt and curl in humid days. Until his colors began to fade in the sun.
Her paper husband lost common words like cherry, observe, and probably. He obsessed and stuck on little chores like doing dishes, cleaning sinks, and plumbing. His glue softened and his folds became loose.
He accidentally left a window open. A fierce wind blew him out their back door and he ripped to pieces and blew out into the twilight. All except the green origami heart, which peeled free and caught in the wind chimes on their back deck.
She refused to believe he was gone. She searched and pasted paper signs with drawings of him. Finally she couldn't pretend any longer and she raged and cried and picked through trees for scraps. She found only a few pieces: an ear, a toe, shreds of paper hair. She couldn't bring herself to touch the heart and used tongs to retrieve it. She placed it in a glass case on her mantel.
She drank red wine till she passed out on the couch, curled asleep on the spot where he used to sit.
She awoke to crashing glass. Her old flesh and blood husband, tired and grey, was caught in the screen of her kitchen window. He struggled and knocked another glass vase from her window sill.
They stared at each other until she said, "Do you want answers or do you want your engagement ring back?"
He pulled himself into her sink and swung his legs down to tap against her cabinets.
She crossed her arms. "You want an apology? You want tears?"
He hopped down to her floor. "I came for my heart."
She looked at the heart on the mantelpiece and grabbed the tongs from the kitchen table, as if to threaten him away.
He said, "I've got other, better things to do with my remaining time."
He moved and she moved and they circled like crows over an abandoned picnic.
He said, "You must have missed me."
She said, "I loved you. I never missed you."
They could see the tired in each other's eyes. She set the tongs on the table and they both sat down.
She knew he liked tea with soymilk, so she put on the pot. They agreed not to talk about the heart till the next day.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, August 25th, 2011
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