Trampled Heart

This city does sleep, but it never rests. Its every faculty remains as yet another seg-way, ever a means but never an end. Time ever remaining at its mezzo allegro meter, ever a resonating steady beat- driving everybody forward chasing after all they fret over- work, family, health, paying the bills, worries deeper than the sea and more countless than the stars in the sky. A tempo one can fall behind in with relative ease, but a tempo strangely lost on me. But look around, and you'll seldom see a down cast eye.

The people I pass everyday as I go to work, as a whole, fix their gaze forward, and I am confounded their ability. Is it pride that keeps their chin so high? Or do they possess a superhuman quality to find resolve and solace? Perhaps they are tired and the banner at the finish line is their driving force- finish work, go home eat dinner, watch TV go to bed, wake up in the morning, do it again.

But such a transfixed stare overlooks the blossoming maples, the beauty of a chilly morning fog or the tiny angelic faces of young children, bundled up tight in warmth from the cold February weather.

But at the same time, such a transfixed stare does not look down and meet the doleful stare of the homeless man one passes on the street. The lonely widow who goes on suffering alone, eyes dry of tears but crying inside, or the young woman who wears large dark glasses and thick makeup to cover the bruises given by her husband, afraid to go home, even more afraid to leave him.

I walk these city streets and question the confident gait of those who hold their head up high. Is it the true stride of the eternally optimistic Or does concern and awe swell in their hearts beneath a stoic face? Or is this all just an illusion? Is the world a freezing place, or just I?

I articulate thoughts no longer. I've been reduced to silence in the annoyance of being accused countless times that I am one to wear my heart out on my sleeve. A quality more often than not, frowned down upon, even though I seldom talk, apparently silence and a frown speak so much louder than a fake smile and nervous idle banter with no other destination than to fill the void of silence that puts us all at ill-ease. So we all go about our days, separate, at arm's length, careful not to sully ourselves in show of emotion.

I ride in the morning throng of people down the sidewalk all on our way to work. As I walk, my eyes wander, astray from the sea of black and charcoal wool coats to the rosy red, white and pink decorations that flooded shop windows. Shallow acclamations of love in rhyming poem form adorned boldly in beautiful calligraphy filled every card or possible gift there was available displayed in the windows. Browning's poems everywhere served as an anthem, those five words resonating so deep as a February tradition, a thousand ways to customize the answer to that question, 'How do I love thee' but that all usually boils down to chocolate and roses, and something a little less like love and something a lot more like infatuation and lust.

And hearts decorate everything. Sweet cute, supple round hearts, everywhere, a rainbow of color and of every shade of red pink and white. It's an overwhelming sight, and frankly it's rather unsightly if you ask me, the colors clash and are used in too much of abundance. It steals from the aesthetics of the natural world around us, even in the city. Somehow, the maple blossoms don't seem so red, the fog so white, nor the children's cheeks so rosy pink.

But at the same time, I think about how hearts are the symbol of love, and how this symbol is absolutely everywhere. Love- everywhere. But there was no amorous wafting sweet aura that swept over anyone who passed these streets by. There was no agapic care that resonated deep enough to melt the chill of winter into an early spring of philanthropy.

In fact, I could not see love at all in all those cute round and full hearts hung attractively in the windows. Even more so, each of those hearts, though in close proximity were not touching one another, and I thought that must be very lonely, even for all those hearts up there, in those windows, were cut so perfectly. All those hearts bundled warmly in black and charcoal wool.

If I were a paper heart, I thought, I would not be like the round bright pink ones I saw in the shop windows. But who would have a heart like that? Those hearts cut in perfection, shining brilliantly in the morning light, pointing upwards like they're rising through the air. But if I were not a heart that looked like that, then I would not adorn those shop windows, now would I?

But if I were a paper heart, I mused, what would I beI stopped and looked down to see a heart cut out of red construction paper. Young unsteady hands cut it jagged and asymmetrical. Torn at the corners and slightly in other places, it was wrinkled and dampened by the trafficking feet over it, atop of it most vividly was the dark muddy footprint, bled into the paper, crisp and dark like paint.

I knelt down picking up the sullied trifle, the youthful, innocent exclamation of wanton romanticism, and the cold stamp of rational cynicism printed upon it like an infernal insignia of despair.

It was such a doleful little heart I held in my hand, I could not help but stare at the cold limp paper I held. It was a work of art I'd be musing over all day. Did the artist, child, even realize the dropped masterpiece? Notice its absence down here by the wayside? Had the child a special beloved to grace this with? Or was it forsaken and cast aside as useless debris? And now, there I found it, on the cold and snow dusted concrete, alone and stepped on more times than could be counted, yet still, in essence, a heart, a symbol of love.

I dug down into my pants pocket, retrieving a safety pin and pinned the heart to my sleeve and continued on my way.