I am an afterimage. I am a bisected heart fluttering in half-felt contractions, pinned down to a student’s desk. Somehow there is no blood, only light. Light, softly spilling from my aorta, gentle and insubstantial. You shake your head to dispel it as you turn back to your teacher’s lesson, but I am painted in the space behind your eyelids every time you blink. Your teacher speaks but isn’t really saying anything at all.
Sentiment is one hell of a drug, cradling me docile in the back of the classroom. The box-cutter used to saw open my ribs is abandoned on the floor beside me. They’ll come for my vertebrae next, I think. They’ve already skipped over my eyes in the curriculum, but I’m okay with that. If they had stuck to the class plan, I wouldn’t have the chance to see you cradle my split, sputtering heart in your hand while you trace the inside of my left ventricle with the lightest ghost of touch.
In the back corner seat three rows behind you is an angel. I ask them why their wings hang so low, and they reply, the weight of human expectation. Their feathers twitch when the teacher walks out of the room, flinching when one of the students laughs raucously and declares in a half-heard conversation’s fragment, well, God can fight me behind the Denny’s then. The angel’s face turns pained, blurry, and they whisper for my ears alone, God has no wish to fight you, child. You, three rows ahead and still playing with my heart, are oblivious to their sorrow.
The aftershocks under my skin are a memory. Be gentle, sweet child, be gentle. Only old bones truly sleep.