She was such a dogmatic atheist, she didn’t even believe in the heart. It’s just a pump, she said. The skin is the only truly romantic organ, and it doesn’t need to hide in a cage. You can tell at a glance whether a scar has healed. I was heating a razor with a cigarette lighter to sterilize the blade; she needed some blood for an art project.
Our affair had been brief, and had ended two years before. Thank you for doing this, she said. I wouldn’t have been able to stand the pain myself. Pain is a gift from God—a warning that something is wrong, I said, half joking. But in fact the blade was so sharp and the four, parallel cuts in the back of my arm so shallow, I barely felt a thing.
She collected the red drops in a small cup, then filled a fountain pen and began to sketch. The heart is like the prophet Jeremiah, I went on. It never shuts up, and it always has the same message: we’re going to die. I only listen to the voices in my gut, which are often louder in praise than in complaint. And while I chattered, her pen fleshed out a beautiful machine.