I started work when Cara was the size of a pea. Her Mom’s heart was like “hey little buddy!” when I started pumping away down in the mesoderm and there was a nice vibe between us, camaraderie. Like when you’re at the gym doing weights and then a bigger guy starts lifting heavier, right beside you, but he’s not a prick about it. He’s more like, “Hey at least you’re here.” She was like that. She gave me advice too, good advice. The funny thing is I used to murmur, and Cara’s Mom’s heart told me to even out, made me speak up and I did – right before Cara was born. I haven’t worked with another heart since then. Cara never got pregnant. That would’ve been interesting for me I guess, but whatever. Lady’s choice, right?
I get along with everybody but my closest colleagues are probably the lungs. They’re good girls, reliable. The brain on the other hand, gives me a lot of trouble. She’s meddlesome, you know? And that doesn’t work so well for me. My ideal conditions are calm, steady. But the brain jumps in, panicking, overreacting. More times than once she’s forced the adrenal gland to send me all this goddamn adrenaline and epinephrine and norepinephrine. That shit makes me go irregular, sometimes for absolutely no good reason. Ok, it’s not my place to judge, but seriously, making me miss a beat in second grade because Steven Tuturro smiled in our direction? Give me a break.
Look, I’m just a worker and in general, I mind my own business. I’m telling you this stuff now because there’s not a whole lot of time. The entire digestive system quit almost three weeks ago. No need to nourish the rest of us since we’re all on the way out. Makes sense I guess, but still. I feel bad for Cara, because that chick sure likes being alive.
I know that because when she saw those big old geese flying through the pink sky over Brooklyn that one time, and another time when she heard that Spanish song about the missing people, I felt like I was swelling, getting bigger. Not like in a cardiomegaly way, it was just a sensation. I’m not sentimental, but those sensations created a feeling of something bigger than being just a piece of machinery, you know?
Other times I felt like I was sinking, like right after Cara’s sister died. Man, that was tough. We’d all been busting our asses in the lead up – stress, no sleep, crappy food, too much caffeine. Then, when it happened, it was like Cara went into slow motion. I didn’t change per se, but I felt this new heaviness, like everything was harder. That feeling lifted over time. Not fully, but enough to get along. Lately the brain’s been acting up, talking about the sister, remembering when they were kids and they found thirty two ladybugs marching in a line on the porch. That kind of shit pulls on my chordae tendineae and fills Cara with this kind of sweet sadness. I don’t know how to explain those strings, they’re not straightforward like the veins coming in and the arteries going out. It seems like the older Cara gets, the looser those strings become.
Honestly, I’m glad I’m hers - it’s been a real trip. When she was younger the brain would make me send blood to her chest and cheeks almost constantly – a real blusher. She grew out of that though - and how! For a good twenty years it was all about pumping it down town as fast as I could. Man, those days were great. Cara knew the best ways - with guys, with girls, by herself - to get pretty much every system off. Then we would all just space out after.
Of course I didn’t. I couldn’t. Ribs got me solid in here. There was always work to do. Not for much longer I guess. We’re all tired now. Between you and me, I wish I could keep going. It’s not up to me, I’m effectively a syncytium, a meshwork of cardiac muscle cells interconnected by contiguous cytoplasmic bridges that pass on the electrical stimulation. I guess a cool thing is that some of my cells are self-excitable, contracting without any signal from the nervous system - even if those little guys were taken out of me they’d still be twitching away. My muscle tissue has autorhythmicity, and that initiates my action potential at a fixed rate - spreading the impulse rapidly from cell to cell to trigger my entire contraction. So like I said, it’s not even up to me.
Whatever Cara needs to do, I’m there to back her. When she sleeps, when she realizes her nephew forgot to call her, when she smiles at a nurse who helps her with her sweater, I’m right there. Throughout her entire life whenever she would get lonely, be delighted, work too hard, swim in the Y, eat whitefish salad, whatever, I kept up my usual lub-dub, lub-dub, lub-dub. But I’ve got to stop soon. What bugs me is that even after I do, the brain gets to keep going. She’s got longer than me, by maybe ten minutes or so. I hope she doesn’t get crazy melodramatic. I hope she tells Cara that everything is right where it needs to be. Meanwhile lub-dub, lub-dub, lub-dub. And I’m out.