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The Hungry Heart

What does it feel like? Or maybe the question is rather: what does it taste like?

The plate is tiny — no more than a saucer for a cup, really. It’s red, of course, just like everything else in this room and this house. On the plate lies a delicate sliver of a veiny substance, impossibly thin and almost translucent. It’s draped on top of a dollop of white foam that sparkles even in the dim light of the dining hall. I can’t imagine the skill it took to present it in such an artistic way without it all falling apart at the mere suggestion of a touch.

The Widow is seated across from me, a vision in pale, pale silk, her eyes covered by a veil. I know she’s looking. Waiting for the first and only bite.

There’s no one else left. The table stretches for what feels like an eternity in both directions from this singular point, where only the two of us sit. Everyone else is at the dance now. A few gave up before we even got started; the hors d’oeuvres always claim victims: eggs of minor shoulder devils, Bruschetta brushed with a generous amount of indulgent oil, Canape’s with creamy Schadenfreude. I suspect the flirtatious shrimp cocktail did the most damage, though. And that was before we got seated.
The gazpacho of an imagined summer’s past had some people sighing, longing for, and eventually chasing that sunset out of the dining room. Just a little nibble of the delusional salmon with a mousseline of grandeur floored at least three quarters the remaining crowd, so only a few even tried the subtle sorbet of soft selfishness. Two were left by the time a roast of sordid rapaciousness with a side of minty limerence was served; one was me, as you know, and the other: The Beast. But no matter their labored breathing and their mane shimmering with aggravation, they had to bow out after a small taste. I caught their broiling glance in my direction as they left, but paid it no mind; I was still starving. I finished the meal by licking the juice off my fingers. I then ate a handful of grapes of innocence to cleanse my palate, to prepare.

Because — the dessert is everything.

I can’t take my eyes off this perfect little piece of art. It’s no more than one mouthful; I can easily scoop it up all at once with a spoon. It feels heavy when I balance it in front of my mouth.

The Widow smiles in anticipation. Our most gracious host, Our Lady of Debauchery. As much as I’m wary of her intentions, I can’t deny her any more than I can keep myself from devouring her meals.

So I eat.

A sliver of hungry heart, on a bed of early morning dreams, hits my tongue like lightning hits the single oak tree out in the field. It tastes like the promise of happiness, sweet but balanced with the salty undertone of experience. The surprisingly crunchy edges mix oh so well with the foamy, fizzy lightness. I close my eyes and feel my mind’s eye tilt; down I go into the darkness, finally.

The fall itself is never scary. Once you know how to unclench your stomach, it feels like ultimate freedom, and an ecstatic joy takes over. It’s a match between exhilaration and terror, always teetering on the brink of profound destruction and total transcendence. I can imagine it, that life; more even, I see it happening in front of me. It hurts, but it hurts in its perfection, and I love it in equal measure to that hurt. The people here, they understand for they are fully molded to my wishes. So is the view of the ocean, the music that we sing, the breeze rustling our hair. I could live here, I think to myself, I could stay.

Then I hit the ground in full force. The roof of my mouth gives off the dulled, acidic aftertaste of something that will never digest.

I regain consciousness much, much later. The Widow holds me close as we dance to the last song of the evening. It’s not a graceful dance; it’s the lazy stagger of two people holding onto a moment that passed two hours ago. I can see Artist beckoning me near the door; they look worrisome. Worrisome and sleepy. I hesitate but take a step back from my dancing partner. I take her hand and kiss it; her skin feels like it was never exposed to the elements. As I look up and catch a sparkle in her clouded eyes peeking from underneath her veil, I can’t help but search for some reassurance.

She smiles knowingly. “Let me get you some leftovers before you leave,” she says.

Image – Human heart clipart illustration. Free public domain CC0 image.
Font – Bungee font family. Used under SIL Open Font License


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