“The white is the muscle; the black is the blood.”
While in the hospital I did an ultrasound of my heart. I had been breathing shallowly for quite a while and they didn’t know what to make of it.
“Are you from New York?” I ask the technician, a cheerful older woman speaking with a familiar accent, more at home with all that machinery than I’m in the kitchen.
“I’m from New Joisey,” she informs me, and instantly we bond.
“Are you sure you can find my heart?” I ask her.
“You sure you have one?” is the New Jersey retort.
“After all these years, I guess I’m finally going to find out,” I say.
The photos appear and I stay prone, looking over my shoulder, riveted. “Look at that thing working!”
“That pump works to feed your entire body. No breaks, no weekends off,” she says.
I can’t stop staring at it. “It doesn’t look that big,” I say. “Let me ask you something. When you fell in love, did it ever occur to you that your pump is working faster, and that’s all there is to this love thing?”
I’m wheeled back upstairs to the hospital bed. I wish Aussie was around so that I could share my impressions with her. What a piece of work this heart is, I want to tell her. What a body this is, what a system! Our water pump for the well in back has only had to be repaired once in 18 years, but my heart’s been going for over 72. No warranty, no service agreement, it labors 24/7. It takes a breakdown in the system for me to get what an extraordinary biological cosmos this really is.
The little breakdowns are in some way the most interesting.
“Look at how amazing it is to feed you, Aussie.”
“Look at all the combinations of actions that are needed. I have to walk slowly to the laundry room, turn, bend down, and pick up your food bowl without keeling over.”
“You know I can do all this for you, why strain? I’d simply skip the kibble part and head to the kitchen.”
“Now watch me put the bowl on the washing machine and reach up with my other arm for the dogfood. It’s a miracle!”
“Skip the kibble and head to the refrigerator, less pressure on your balance.”
Now watch me pour the dogfood into a cup without spilling, Aussie! I have to hold the bag with two hands.”
“Wake me up when this is over.”
“Now I walk holding the bowl in my hand to the kitchen, making a right turn without getting dizzy. Slowly, I turn around to face the refrigerator, take out some broth and a little chicken—”
“Could we make that a lot? I don’t want you to lose your sense of proportion; God knows you’ve lost everything else!”
“It’s this infection hammering my body, Auss. I turn back to the counter, put broth and chicken on the counter next to your food bowl even as the refrigerator door closes behind me.”
“What an acrobat you are! If you fall, try to fall in the net, okay?”
“I then walk to get the knife, pick it up, and return to the counter holding it.”
“I’ve been adopted by Albert Einstein!”
“I pour some broth and cut some chicken into your bowl, Aussie.”
“More! More! More! More!”
“Now this is the biggest trick of all. I do everything in reverse, Auss. Turn back to refrigerator and put back broth and chicken, turn around again, pick up your bowl, hold tight with both hands to the rim while walking back to the laundry room, and then, slowly and very carefully, bend down and put it on the mat that says Watch your paws, and voila! Dinner’s ready!”
“You didn’t even vomit into my food bowl like you did before! I vomit into it every day and I’m not even sick.”
“Now I start the whole thing again with your water bowl. I have to bend down, pick it up gently, walk to the door to throw the water at the flowers, slowly turn around, walk to the kitchen—”
“Just make me a margarita, will you?”
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