“When my sister did it, she aced all of her courses.” Jenny said, offhandedly scrolling through her phone.
“They say there are no side effects; you can just switch it right back on.” Lana sat opposite Jenny and Talia at the picnic table. The campus lawn was crisp with the chill that came with fall, but the morning sun was warm.
“I don’t know. It scares me and it’s so odd to me. How do you just stop your heart? Wouldn’t you die?”
Talia had brought her best friends together for coffee because she knew it would be healthy to spend some time on her platonic friendships. Her therapist recommended this. However, the discussion turned towards Talia and the new heart stopping procedure that’s supposed to make you more productive. A lot of lifestyle bloggers had mentioned the procedure. “Quick and painless,” were the words she’d seen. Those were words that appealed to her.
“I think ‘heart stopper’ is just a catchy name for it,” said Jenny who wouldn’t understand the turmoil in Talia’s chest. She’s level headed, well put together, well adjusted. How Talia envied her. She represented a normalcy she always felt excluded from.
Talia grabbed the edges of her bright yellow cardigan and pulled it closer to her chest as if to protect her own heart. She took a sip of the iced coffee she could drink year-round.
“What do you think Jen?”
Jenny looked up from her phone for a moment to consider it. She was a wild child. If she wanted to do something, no rule could stop her. Talia also envied her for this. Her friends are so certain of who they are but Talia can only find herself when she’s tangled in sheets with new lovers.
“Go for it. Especially if it’s reversible. It’s like a vasectomy for the heart.” She says, laughing at her own bad joke.
“But I heard that you’re just numb.” Lana chimed in with disapproval in her tone.
“I need to do something. I have to go back to work soon and I’ve missed the first week of class.” Talia felt tears coming to her eyes. She wasn’t ready to go back to work. She didn’t want to have to pass Delilah in the halls. She felt a sting in her heart as the smell of the office building came back to her. Secret meetings in supply closets.
“Do you really think that this will help you focus?”
Talia shook her head with mild certainty.
She didn’t want to say it out loud but numbing herself looked like the best option. She wanted to escape this feeling of dread, as if without Delilah, there was a void that needed to be filled. If she couldn’t fill it, she would risk losing herself. She couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t function alone like this. But losing Delilah wasn’t the issue. No. She realized that when she woke up in a hospital bed with a pumped stomach. Whatever the real issue is, she didn’t have time to sort it out in therapy and the medication they gave her wasn’t helping. She could barely get out of bed most days, and when she did, getting dressed felt like climbing a mountain.
“What does your therapist think about the procedure?” Lana asked, with genuine concern?
Talia couldn’t tell her the truth. She couldn’t tell her that she hadn’t told her therapist that she had been considering the procedure because she knew her therapist would disapprove. Talia didn’t handle disapproval well. She hid from it when she could.
“We haven’t talked about it yet.”
“Well, I think you should start there.”
Later that night, at her dining table, after over an hour of staring at the blank word document on her laptop, Talia gave up. This assignment wasn’t getting done, this semester was over when it had only just begun. On her way to the bedroom she looks over at the dirty dishes in the kitchen sink, an overflowing trashcan and empty cans of cat food that needed to be recycled. As she walks by the bathroom she considers a shower but even that feels like too much.
I don’t want this anymore, she thinks to herself, as she lays in bed. She curls up, wrapped in her blankets as the thoughts begin to invade her head and heart. Memories of Delilah flash by, fresh wounds feel like they’re pulsating. Not wanting to deal with the ghosts tonight, she opens her side table drawer and finds the over the counter sleeping pills she purchased when her doctor wouldn’t prescribe her something better.
Delilah came home with silver hair. She was always changing it. Talia thought she looked like starlight. She crawled into bed like a cat ready to pounce; Talia was her prey. Once Delilah was on her, she kissed her with such sweetness Talia thought her lips could be honey.
“I missed you. Let’s not fight anymore.” Delilah said in a whisper as her lips lingered over Talia’s.
“I’m so glad you’re back,” Talia sighed as she reached for Delilah, pulling her by the collar of her shirt, closing the space between their lips. Starving for more, Talia’s hands traveled down and under her shirt, finding the clasps on her bra. The feeling of Delilah’s skin on hers was too much but not enough. She was soft to touch but rough with her hands. Talia loved the way she controlled her body. Delilah told her hips how to move, and her lips when to moan.
Talia woke up drenched in her own sweat. She looked around quickly for Delilah who was never there. The night’s darkness weighed heavy on her. She was alone. She was so alone and it was more than she could handle. Her breathing became stifled. It felt as though something was piercing her heart. She gripped her chest as she sobbed. She laid like this for hours until sleep had no choice but to come.
After a rushed consultation, Talia finds herself in a strange doctor’s office across town, far away from campus. This was one of the few doctors that offered this still new procedure.
“When you wake, you might feel some anxiety for the first few minutes,” was the last thing she remembered hearing.
When she woke up there was a piercing pain and a small square shaped bandage over her chest. She felt her heart fluttering too fast for its own good. Talia thought she might explode. Jenny and Lana were there. Lana quickly took her hand when she saw the panic in Talia’s eyes. Then she felt it slow down. The flutter became so slow she thought it might have stopped. The world had slowed down. She looked at her friends with a reassuring, albeit tired, smile. She loosened her grip on Lana’s hand.