The Heart Rages On

Cat Dixon

That time – the 27-year-old mother hiding in a hotel for a week with two children, the restraining order, the hole punched into the basement wall, the shattered gap in the master bedroom door, the bruises on her upper arms, the theft of all notebooks and jewelry, her return to the house – changing the locks and garage door code, and the internet, lights, cable cut off, the discoveries: hotel rooms charged to secret credit cards, gifts of lingerie sent to a PO Box, the STD test results, the OBGYN and counselor appointments, the police report, the prosecutor calling to confirm the husband will take anger management classes – no time in jail, the mice in the backyard, the chandelier hanging by wires above the dining room table, the broken lock on the sliding glass door, the broken baby gate swinging by the stairs, the quiet nights on the bathroom floor, the lawyer’s emails and bills and calls, the listening device perched in the husband’s shirt pocket, the endless meetings with the mediator, the June hail storm striking the roof, the lawn – a thicket of weeds, the baby crying unless she’s held tightly and her bottom patted for hours, the toddler clutching the blue faded blanket as the husband tears it from the boy, “he’ll get over it,” the wine bottles thrown into a dumpster twenty miles away, the recurrent nightmares that the husband will break in – set fire to everything, the wedding album shredded in a box, the son asking, “where’s Daddy?” every night during Good Night, Moon, changing diaper after diaper for the boy can’t be potty-trained while traumatized and the baby girl needs the most expensive formula due to food allergies and she wears a helmet and endures physical therapy – her neck like a shepherd’s crook and the back of her head flat like a screen, her face ravaged by yeast and sores, the allergy doctor holding the baby down to poke her legs with needles, the doctor holding the baby down to x-ray her neck, the poetry books that once brought comfort now illegible, the TV shows that once brought laughter now boring – the heart was a muscle beating night and day unnoticed for it never hiccupped, lagged, or jerked into spasms. The heart rages on until it doesn’t.