Hearts on strings

February 7th, 2015, 4pm

On the sunniest day of the year so far, we remained in the muffled dimness of his closed-curtained bedroom. Spring had arrived fresh and unexpected, but we made no attempt to follow through on the idea of a picnic or outdoor stroll. Instead, we nestled below the covers and retreated further into our secluded corner of the city. We could hear the rest of it carrying boisterously on, light-soaked and gleeful, on the street below his window. But for us, the world was nothing but velvety darkness and the compact warmth of two bodies beneath a downy comforter.

He slipped quickly into sleep, his breathing slow and steady, nearly soundless. My consciousness was slower to depart, delayed by a mind hungry for this memory, and a body drowsily electrified by his closeness. I felt him down the length of me, every connected inch. We were lying on our sides, fully clothed and face-to-face, my head on his shoulder, our chests pressed together, and our legs entangled. I was just awake enough to appreciate the realness in the weight of his arm softly settled across my own. The innocence of it.

You might say I was blissfully content, that there was nothing and nowhere in the bright outside world that could lure me from our fortress. One of the great ironies of peace, though, is its diet of covetous cupidity. The perfection of the moment was such that I ached for it, for him, while he was still in my own arms. How can you possess a timestamp, reroute sand in its hourglass? How do you quantify the pace of two heartbeats, the sync of two rising chests, or the timing of a kiss on the forehead?

I thought of hearts on strings then. It came into my mind like a kindergartner’s drawing, pink crayon hearts connected by a strand. In my imagined illustration, a series of strings were tied up taut between two hearts, each cord a singular means of connecting them. One at a time, each was knotted in place, slowly at first, tentatively.

A game of hopscotch.

A five ingredient recipe.

An inappropriately named drink and an empty dance floor.

Any of these strings might have snapped or fallen away. On their own, they were delicate, unable to hold two adventurous hearts in one place. But with each new addition, the connection solidified to forge something tangible. I could hold it in my hand, measure it by diameter. A rope of hope; a hope rope. It was the accumulation of all the strings pulling my heart towards his, and like magic they multiplied: a mad dash through the rain - a fuzzy Halloween mustache - a 31 year fib - a meal at Mintwood - two football tailgates - sammies in the mountain sun - and now, his heartbeat…

A string is a fragile thing on its own, of course. Even inside a fortified rope, some or all can break, whiplashing back to sting one side or the other. Because hearts, even tethered hearts, are their own masters. They never fully merge. All they can do is beat beside one another, adding or losing strings, moving together and apart.

This is the way love works, I thought. Hearts on strings. Simple as a child’s illustration, the concept that could express all my unquantifiable feelings.

Still asleep, his fingers traced circles around my elbow. Then, pulling me in tighter, he emitted that comforting half hum, half groan which all sleepy lovers know and crave.

“Come here,” he said. “Come closer.”

David Wade said thanks.

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Sara Ashley

Writer, runner, and a terrible but enthusiastic karaoke star.

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