Here is another text inspired by last Sunday’s meeting of ‘The Procrastinators’ online creative writing group. Our topic was science fiction and after the workshop I sat awake for a very long time, musing on time travel… as you do on a Sunday evening, I mean, what else is there to do?
I got hooked on the downsides of time travel and spent a good deal of the night deliberating with myself and copious amounts of tea – and I guarantee you, it was really only tea. Milky tea, baby tea, all pretty harmless. Then, quite unexpectedly, the problem of time travel hit me. I am not talking about the physics of it. There are people far more qualified than my humble self and these people are spending a lot of their time explaining the pros and cons, the ins and outs. I’m not a physicist and as a writer, the things that worry me are of a different nature.
Writers explore with heightened empathy the real, the hypothetical and theoretical, the present, the past and the future. We are time travellers in our own right and this comes with a certain amount of interesting dangers, in case it goes wrong. My story below is about such a case, when writing goes wrong, or a little too far. Writing is, quite literally, not for the faint hearted.
So without any further ado, I invite you to follow my Sunday night musings on ‘The writer’s heart’. I enjoyed writing it, I hope you enjoy reading it. And maybe, afterwards, it’s time for a little Chianti. Leave a comment, if you wish. As always any constructive feedback is greatly appreciated.
The writer’s heart, by Britta Benson
The thing about time travel is that it breaks your heart. Not in the simple romantic sort of way, we’ve all been there, it’s quite predictable for most of us, once you have a certain mileage under your belt. You know, the age old story, where you fall in love and put your heart and hopes into the care of another person, only to realize they have a sizeable meat cleaver on a neat magnetic strip at the side of a cupboard in their kitchen and they are not afraid to use it. After the usual wait, say three to six months, at a guess and for illustration purposes only, and just as you are getting comfortable in their home, so comfortable, that you even begin to like the slightly sticky floor in the kitchen – that’s the precise moment when they pick up the freshly sharpened meat cleaver from the strip and chop your heart up, bit by bit, as though they intend to serve it back to you for dinner the same day in the shape of a steak tartare.
So we can all agree, that this is genuinely awful, but not the kind of heartbreak I am writing about here. You can mend a romantically broken heart, even the damage inflicted by a meat cleaver. There are surgeons for that, specially trained, experts if you like, and you will find them in the pub, on the park bench, at your workplace or your friend’s birthday party, where they will just turn up and tell you in no uncertain terms, that they are meant to be your next one. The next, the best, the only caretaker for your heart, but first and foremost, they become the one to stitch, glue or sellotape this damaged thing in your chest back together again. Some are more adept than others. If you’re lucky, they do a reasonably good job, if not, they might miss out a bit and you’ll start leaking blood, which can be slightly off-putting. That’s how you learn to live with loss. Got to keep on collecting though, you want to end up with a nice string of pearls like everybody else… A collector’s piece, desirable. There is no way round it, they all seem to have meat cleavers or worse, a high tech food processor. Those things are truly vicious. What a mess and infinitely harder to get your heart stitched back together again, it’s better to go down the traditional route, all in good time.
Time. Here’s my problem. I am a writer, which of course sounds pretty harmless, but I have more than meat cleavers to worry about, when it comes to my heart. I don’t stick around. My feet, my heart and soul struggle to stay in one dimension for any length of time. How do you guys do it? Did I just miss the memo? The weekend training course? You seem to possess a manual, the ability to tackle life one thing at a time, while I drift and drift some more and that’s when the real heartbreak happens, I can hear it, feel it, my heart’s stings stretching beyond my comfort zone in all directions, and then a little further, further still, I keep on pushing, and – snap. I always leave a bit behind. Which bit is none of my choosing.
I’ve got a map in my breast pocket, close to my higgledy piggledy stitched up heart, so thinly stretched, the seams are waiting for permission to tear. I started off with a giant poster of the world on my wall, putting little pins in the places my writer’s heart had visited, putting times and dates on the map, so that I could go back if need be and collect my loves, my limbs and all the fragments of my soul that didn’t want to come home with me when it was time to leave. I can give you some advice: Don’t put posters on your walls, if you’re never quite sure, if you can make it back to places, to the pieces of your heart, or if you can make it back at all. Keep your map and compass closer to your heart, what’s left, and hope, for otherwise, you’ll end up northless. And don’t use pins, such a rookie mistake, I admit, and not my finest hour. You’ll become your very own voodoo doll. It works. Trust me, I’ve tried and it’s not pretty.
Maybe it’s been through the blender too many times, my heart. There is only that much even the most skilled surgeon or punter in the pub can do. I feel like my heart is being held together by a sieve with thousands of holes, I’m dripping, wherever I go, so it’s no wonder bits of me stay behind, waiting to be found, by someone, me or other. Apparently, you can travel too much. I’m oozing and that cannot possibly be a good thing. Nobody wants to be of the oozing kind. I trickle, my heart seeps out of me and I’m afraid it seems quite happy to escape from me. Did you find a bit?
How do you stop the seepage of your heart? I’ve been told to keep it close at all times and I do my best. I’ve got a writer’s heart. It’s all over the place. Sometimes, I can keep it safe on pages, cross the time zones with ease, but out in what they call the real world, my little heart struggles and just feels cold, to the point where I’m attracted to meat cleavers on magnetic strips in other people’s kitchens.
I think I’d be happy to give my heart away for good, offer it up for a transplant. I’d like a replacement though. A slightly less flighty, a heavier heart, with not quite so much wanderlust instilled in its core. I reckon, I’ve done enough mileage for a lifetime. Can you wish for a heart transplant? If so, can I please get the heaviest of your hearts? A happy blob. Sedentary. I’ve got an even better idea, make it concrete. That will do. A concrete heart. That should teach me. I’ll write solid stories then. No more hairy fairy stuff. Concrete doesn’t travel well. I’ll be safe as houses.