Wizard of Oz: “As for you, my galvanized friend, you want a heart. You don’t know how lucky you are not to have one. Hearts will never be practical until they can be made unbreakable.”
Tin Man: “But I still want one.”
* * * * * *
ONE: At the grocery store, longingly pet beckoning bags of candy corn. Let recent dentist’s warnings and a cavity propel you onward, empty-handed.
TWO: Teach college English at an under-performing, low-income high school. Try to crack the pecans that are ten sleepy, bored heads entrusted to you in the early mornings. Offhandedly agree to attend one of their football games, then be surprised at how quickly you can fall in love. These classroom slouchers are in the band, on the dance team, in the crowd, and despite the fact that only a handful of families show up for support, and the football team loses, your students’ pride is unmistakable.
Watch them compete against the most affluent boarding school kids in the city. Huddle in the wet metal stands and suddenly start crying because the disparity is overwhelming. Chest-crushing. When the boarding school team gloatingly fires a jolting cannon shot after every touchdown, and startled spectators around you scream, try to quell the thick anger that rises. The truth is, you will never have been so angry and it’s a purple rage that doesn’t fully make sense.
THREE: Spend nearly three years with someone good and true, then part ways because your visions of the future are just too different. Remember when you had nicknames, a song, a routine. You’ve been through this forest before, so you know how to be thankful for something even as it becomes past tense. Fervently believe it was worth everything.
FOUR: Be far away from family. Think of scattered brothers, and the darling nieces and nephews growing up in an eye blink. Imagine what you will all talk about when you’re old, and how much you don’t know how to say now. When you were little you couldn’t have imagined that something as ordinary as love comes with so many question marks.
FIVE: Cling to the truth, like a lifeboat made of marshmallows, that there are far worse things to have inside your rib cage than a broken heart — an immovable one, for example. Or Ebola. Every crease is the chance to be braver, and a little more pliable. How else would we be folded into envelopes bearing love letters to the world?