What Hearts Look Like
“Because a boy like her and his father shouldn’t be told hearts … look simple…”
Your daughter will be five.
And she will look up from coloring in the back seat and will ask,
“what do hearts look like?”
Don’t make eye contact with her through the rearview mirror.
Don’t wait until you stop at a red light,
pull out a pen and your handy leather-bound notebook
and fashion two asymmetrical half circles into one symmetrical form.
Don’t color it in black because the pen you pulled out of your bag isn’t red.
Don’t hand her your notebook just before pulling away from the intersection and say,
“It looks like this, honey.”
Because she will soon be fifteen
and will know you are lying.
She will be a bundle of nerves and an oversized chest.
She’ll be daily make-outs under the stairs with one guy who smells like three different girls
and will be quiet.
And she will not reject his kisses.
She will open her arms and wrap them around him like the embrace of bark on a tree.
Squeezing in hopes of maybe forcing his heart out on his sleeve because
she just wants to see what it looks like.
And then she will be 17 with curly hair and good grades.
She will be designated drivers on friday nights escorting a team of girls lining the back of your car.
She will hope their drunkenness keeps them from remembering they can’t stand her tomorrow,
will make eye contact through the rearview mirror,
but they will simply be too drunk to smile back.
And after that
she’ll be a freshman in college
and anybody who’s anybody will be at that party with that basketball team and she will be there too —
hoping her drunkenness will keep her from remembering she can’t stand herself today.
she will be too drunk to say “no” at the “right time”
and he will be too drunk to wait until stopping at a red light
and that car ride
will end up being the worst of her life.
But she will be brave,
21 and with just one year left before graduation.
And the fire in her fingertips will no longer be containable.
She will pull out a pen and her handy leather-bound notebook and fashion two recent sexual assaults into one asymmetrical poem.
Her first one.
And she will not color it in with metaphor because the pain she pulled out of her bag just doesn’t work that way.
Her cadence will not make sense because she knows she can’t make amends,
and she will not write about making amends because she knows that doesn’t make sense;
just want life to make sense.
So, she’ll be 22 and 23 and 24
and 25 long, sensible poems later she will fall in love with a guy who looks and acts just a little too much like that basketball player,
and that team of girls,
and that boy who played far too hard to get close too.
And she will hand him her notebook just before pulling away from the point where their lives intersected,
certain that he wanted to know what her heart looked like
but was just too gullible and arrogant to ask.
And she will be sarcastic,
and will write 5 sharp words on its cover.
“It looks like this, honey!”
And she will never talk to him again —
knowing the unborn man in her womb will soon be fifteen
and could end up too much like his father to have the guts to ask what hearts look like.
She will show him hearts look like broken promises to break,
they look like mountains capped with the shards of pain and framed in the glow of undying hope
and, therefore, they look beautiful.
Hearts look beautiful, son.
But she will not draw them.
Because a boy like her and his father shouldn’t be told hearts — or loving with them — looks simple,
because there’s a 50% chance he won’t know you’re lying
and will end up living that way.
Instrumental accompaniment/ music credit:
“Drone in D” by Kevin MacLeod. Licensed under CC Attribution 3.0. (http://incompetech.com/music/royalty-free/index.html?isrc=USUAN1200044)
How was “love” first described to you?