John W. Stuckey

My heart keeps me awake at night. I lie there wishing it would stop, praying that it doesn't. The hours go by. I've lost the sounds of night to my heart. And I miss them. There was a time when sleep was meaningless to me, when a locomotive five blocks away meant no more to my ears than a feather swooning down from a limber pine. There was a time when I didn't even know I had a heart, when I wasn't aware of its beating, I mean. There was a time when being reminded that I was alive was a happy thing.

Now I just lie there with my faulty heart with its faulty valve, both of which are, I want to believe, the fault of the manufacturers. Sometimes deep into the night, listening instead of sleeping, I hear it speak to me in its little mechanical voice, nagging, reminding me that we are forever linked. Saying to me we have no life apart. Like Siamese twins we hold a mutual hatred for trespassers. We dumpster-dive for the magic word that will free one of us, leave the other to fend for himself. We listen for that word with our one good ear.

I know how it feels to be in a bad marriage although I've never been married, never expect to be.

Eventually, I fall into exhausted half sleep, which usually begins-if it begins at all-with the soft light of dawn and lasts until the sun seeps over the earth's edge and pries open my eyes. For these sweet moments my heart becomes a music box, tinkling its lullaby over the blood that rushes with the sweet sound of cellos through its chambers. And I sleep. Sometimes I even dream.

God keeps teaching me a thing or two about hearts. About what happens when they are opened and closed, about human tinkering. The lessons have been coming for a long time.