This Isn't About You
Issue no. 2: matters of the heart
WORDS - inhye lee | illustration - khadjia horton
Chucking her half eaten bar of chocolate at her trash can, and missing, Izzy let out an exasperated sigh.
She was tired of feeling this way. Even though there was a small part of her that weirdly enjoyed the pain – like pressing down on a bruise when you know you shouldn’t. She was done.
But what’s a girl to do when her heart hasn’t necessarily been broken? When a piece hasn’t even been chipped off? What’re you supposed to do when someone’s bruised it?
Her friends had all told her that she would be fine, that it was better that he had shown his true colors earlier rather than later, but their words didn’t do much to alleviate the dull pain that had pulsed through her every day for the past week and a half.
Maybe Google could help her.
She types “heart bruises” into the search window. In the midst of all the medical speak that populates the results, something catches her eye: “Punched in the Chest.”
A little dramatic, yes, but could be relevant.
The link takes her to a website that lists only a phone number. Under the number is a picture of a human heart with a name plate underneath reading “Helen.”
A part of her brain tells her that this is some creepy phishing scam. It could even be some terrifying black market organ harvesting scheme. But the other part of her brain – possibly the part that governs her emotions – tells her to call the number. What’s the worst thing that could happen? If it turns out to be a dead end, she can just hang up and block the number.
Izzy dials, and waits. She lets the phone ring on and on, wondering if it’ll eventually go to voicemail.
After about a minute, a cool voice answers. “Hello, Izzy. This is Helen; how can I help you today?”
Izzy bolts upright on her bed.
“H-how do you know my name?”
Helen lets out a throaty chuckle.
“I know more than you think.”
“Then wouldn’t you already know why I’m calling?”
“Well there’s only really ever one reason why anyone calls me, but I want to hear your story from you.”
What the fuck am I doing? I just called some random lady. Has this “break up,” or whatever it was, really driven me to this?
Just as she’s about to hang up, Helen says, “Don’t hang up. I know it may seem a bit odd that I know your name, but it’s my job to know these things. I’m here to help you, okay?”
Izzy breathes out a shaky, “Okay.”
After a moment of pause, Izzy launches into the story. About the meeting, the time spent together, and the eventual collapse. She’d told herself she’d never cry about this again, but she can’t help it. Even though it didn’t last very long, the ending still fucking hurt.
Helen had heard it all before.
“Izzy, I’m going to be honest with you,” she says.
Izzy sniffs out a quiet, “Okay.”
Helen takes it as her cue to continue,
“I know right now it feels like you shouldn’t be sad or upset, because your relationship didn’t last long. People make it seem like unless you were with someone forever, you shouldn’t be sad about it ending, but that’s not true. If it was real, and it made you both happy, an ending is going to be painful no matter what. I will concede, however, that the recovery process is a little different.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m saying that the recovery plan I’m going to give you is going to be different than what my colleagues recommend for people coming from the long-term camp.”
“What do I have to do?” Izzy asks, a little wary, now.
“It’s a simple process, really. There are only three steps. One: every time you feel a negative emotion, write it down. Two: no music slower than 80 BPMs, Three: break something for every day that you were together. Things that shatter, like fine china and mirrors, usually work better for this last step, but really, anything will do. You just have to make sure it’s properly shattered into pieces.”
Izzy, once again, turns to skepticism. “I have to break something for every day that we were together?”
“Yes. A lot of people tend to break one thing every day, but it doesn’t matter how many you break at once. The total number of objects broken just has to equal the total number of days in your relationship.”
“And that’s it?”
“As long as you follow those steps exactly, you can leave the rest to me.” Helen’s voice sounds confident.
Izzy pauses. Leave what to her? Before she can ask though, the line goes dead. She redials the number, but a pre-recorded voice tells her that the number she’s reached is no longer in service.
Helen puts down her phone and, slowly, turns in her chair.
She steps gingerly over broken pieces of glass and fragments of twisted metal, towards a glowing aquarium in the middle of the dimly lit room. Instead of fish in the tank, there is a giant beating human heart, and underneath it a name plate that reads: “#127 IZZY.”
Helen bends down, picking up one of the jagged mirror shards before plunging her hand into the aquarium, and slashing the heart with it. The heart spasms, but before it can go anywhere, Helen grabs onto it. The heart struggles to get away from her, but she holds it firmly in place, gently stroking it.
Dark rivulets of blood slowly seep from the cut.
“It’s okay,” Helen says in a loving voice, “I know it hurts now, but you’re going to be okay.”