Every time he lived to tell the tale of his heart, the doctors laughed in his face. It had all started when he was twelve, or was it when he was fourteen? A memory’s exact moment in history is difficult to put into words. Especially when the first gray hairs start to viciously attack the looking glass. All he knew was that the pain in his chest felt real. As real as the taste of his mother’s favorite meatball soup, which he was destined to eat every second Monday of every month. As if Mondays weren’t bad enough.
The first time it happened, they had guests for dinner. The Leaches were a lovely bunch, save for Mrs Leach, who always looked at Kevan as if he was a toad and for the little Miss Leach, who followed him wherever he went with her cold blue eyes and her straw curls, hoping to initiate a connection he had no interest in.
The rain outside had forced them all to gather in the living room where the mothers passionately discussed for the hundredth time the last Austen’s novel, while the girl played with her prudish doll near the window, occasionally stealing a glance at Kevan, who read a song of himself. Unexpectedly, he put his hand on his chest and fell on the carpet, his face in a grimace of pain. The mothers rushed down to him and all Miss Leach managed to do was to look bewildered.
“Are you alright, dear? Should we call the doctor?”
“I’m fine, ma. Just… let me lay down here for a minute. My heart needs the ground.” Kevan barely said through a series of instinctively taken deep breaths.
“Show me where you feel pain, dear. You are so pale, something like this was bound to happen. I should have listened to mother. She always said you needed more radishes in your diet…” Filled with past regrets, the mistress of the house rang the servant’s bell. “Come at once, you brainless spoon.” She yelled.
“Mama, please, there’s no need for drama. I just need a moment to recollect myself.” Kevan affirmed, his voice recovering with every lung expansion.
A plump and timid servant girl bowed at the door.
“Fetch the doctor right this moment! The master is ill.”
“Don’t listen to her, Sharlott. I’m perfectly fine.” He said firmly.
The girl’s anxious rabbit eyes darted between them.
“Just hand me my book and bring me a glass of something to help with my blood pressure.”
“Are you sure, dear?” His mother exhaled the stress as he regained his posture.
“Yes, ma. Don’t make a big deal out of it.” Feeling slightly better, Kevan already distracted himself with the intricate patterns of the carpet – an exotic faraway land of wool and colors.
“Alright then. Sharlott, you heard the master.”
He found his page and settled into reading on the floor. Concentration had just managed to possess his thoughts, when Miss Leach (to the horror of her mother), laid down next to the master of the house.
“Can you read better down here?” The little girl’s squeaky voice turned her into a mosquito in his mind.
“I can see better.” He paused. “…How like giants we must seem to ants, how like apes we really are. What have we achieved but filling our worlds with objects, needed by no one? What right have we to the forest maze that stretches up the river? Why have we got a ballroom when the stable boy doesn’t even have a bed to sleep in?” He thought aloud, feeling the illness gradually leaving his skin.
“Because we come from good families,” Mrs Leach interfered, afraid of the silly thoughts this boy can impose on her offspring. “Our right to the land is as sacred as the crown of the king. Our objects – a proof of our position in society.” She remained stable but the corners of her mouth twitch as her head looked down. “Georgiana, you’re a lady, don’t lay on the floor.”
At that moment the servant girl announced that the dinner was served and Kevan had to satisfy his thirst for arguments by throwing one last daring look at their guest.
After a month it all happened again, only this time he was alone on a walk along the river. The chest pain came as sudden as the rain and he fell on the ground beneath the weeping willow. Droplets gently stroked his cheeks. He took a deep breath, leaning his right hand on the soft grass, raised in mud. “I’m going to die, i’m going to die…” The only sane thought on his mind looped endlessly. “I’ve done nothing, I’ve been nowhere, felt no love, no creation, no destiny. A no-body, existing for the sake of the people around me, the no-bodies. All breathing in tune for survival.”
In a few minutes, the pain subsided and he thanked his heart for not giving in. He would live to see another day, to take another chance, to be a different son.
A mile away, the house stood cold and bleak. Kevan walked decisively on the way back, contemplating the adventures that awaited him in the vastly mysterious forests where beasts held the sceptre. Entering his chambers, he found a never used old suitcase at the bottom of the wardrobe and began to fill it up with shirts and socks, and sins. His face was red with excitement, still intoxicated by the rain. Now or never. His mother entered the room.
“What is going on?” She asked.
“I’m going away, mother. Right now.” He said.
“Where do you think you’re going?”
“The Amazon? Are you mad?”
“Perhaps I am but there’s nothing you can do about it.”
He left the next morning before his mother’s weeping. The chilly air tingled his cheeks as Kevan stepped forward to the feared world.
Four years later, the prodigal son returned for his mother’s funeral. Sharlott had found her on the living room floor a few days ago, feverish. Now he laid on the very same spot, channeling the portal of past thoughts to the present. His nephew entered the room.
“Uncle, what are you doing on the floor?” The boy asked.
“I’m adjusting my heart.” He answered.
“Is it broken?”
“Indeed it is. Once you reach the end of adolescence, the only way to grow is to break it.” He explained.
“Doesn’t it hurt?”
“It does, if you’re not listening.”