Best Worst Year: Episode 49 (Or, Now is the Time for Hearts and Flowers)

My heart has a flutter, or at least that’s what this pocket monitor and companion cell phone is trying to determine. It’s been slowly growing in frequency over the last month and change. It feels like a rippling under my breastbone. It’s not painful. I don’t get lightheaded. It’s quick but deliberate. It’s random. It’s like a wind-up toy winding down but not stopping. Flutter.

At my cardiologist I joke that it’s a product of being a fickle poet boy–Kevin Arnold meets Max Fisher meets Pinoy genetics. The nurses laugh. I’m charming. Bow tie. Crooked smile. Cracking wise. The flutter has a slight buzz to it–like a cell phone on vibrate. It’s not painful.

It reminds me of my Seiko 5 Automatic watch. Sometimes ,as it self -winds, I can feel the gears shift and the hands move slightly faster. Just out of sync. Time trying to compensate for a loss of energy by pushing harder against gravity. Just out of sync. Slightly. Time out of order. Flutter.

The monitor hooked up to my chest is connected to what is essentially a pager. I make a joke that I’m concerned–What good will this monitor do transmitting my information back to 1998? The nurses laugh. I’m nervous. Quietly so. My shoes squeak when I’m walking through the hospital hallway. Needles. They’re testing potassium. Thyroids. The electrocardiogram from a few months back looked good. Except for the upper left ventricle. Nothing to be worried about. Just a precaution. Just a note. Just something to keep in mind. It was halloween when I had the test. They keep talking about the test in the present tense. Like it just happened. Like my heart has been taken out of context. It’s out of my chest. A subject all its own. Not me. Not now. Out of sync. Flutter.

I am assured that the flutter is not life threatening. I know it’s not. I read WebMD. So did one of my coworkers. She worries too much. I worry not enough. I guess. I don’t know. Flutter.

The flutter almost sounds like keystrokes. The tiny tapping keeps me company when I write this–it’s comforting. Secure. Keys move in a fluid rhythm of letters and space. Breaks in lines. I create space. Digital permanence. You read it. You don’t. The page goes on to have its own life–an extension of you and yet not you at all. A shared space. Like a living room lit with christmas lights. Or taxi after midnight leaving the JFK International Airport Terminal A, snow melting, pooling beneath bridges–causing you, the cab, and driver to hydroplane. Levitate slightly. No magic. Barely science. Just weather, highway, and Saturday night. Flutter

It’s almost Sunday when I finally can unwind to begin my weekend in Manhattan. It’s already over. I’m back in Springfield. It’s Wednesday. I’ve been home for less than twenty-four hours. I’m in a waiting room. I fill out a questionnaire. My answers are so different than they would’ve been six months ago. I do yoga. I’m in the gym five days a week. Exercise six. I read labels at the grocery store. I’ve dropped two shirt sizes. I’m thirteen hours from home. I’m nervous. Flutter.

I’m told to slow down. To have real r and r. Nine to five. My clock doesn’t punch that way. I work until the work’s done. I spent four hours in Brooklyn on Monday night interviewing Ibrahim from Akashic Books for Quiddity. I’ve known him for years but this is our first real professional conversation. I think about last calls I can’t remember and talking about D.C. hardcore all ages shows. Circle pits. Books. Off the clock. 2009. Now I’m paid to talk to him. The future of publishing. Advocacy for the writers on the margins. Margin Walker. Fugazi’s second EP. We talk like the punk rock kids we were. Still are. I’m wearing a bow tie. I have a $400 Zoom handheld recorder. My hands are cold. Poor circulation. I remember when my hands were ruby red warm in the winter. Getting old. Flutter.

I wrap my hands around a handmade mug. It’s the last coffee I’ll have today. The doctor wants me to cut down on caffeine. I carve another vice away. Red meat. Cigars. Fast food. It’s easier for me to do without than reduce. I’ve never been good at moderation. I love what I love too much. It makes the heart swell in all the best wrong ways. It’s December and almost 50 degrees out. The weather is out of time. I need to pack. I’m going home once all my work is done. Deadlines. There’s always deadlines. But I love it. Have you been paying attention? Can’t you see that I can sit right across from you all night and write or talk art or share a space as quiet as snow blanketing a city while it sleeps? Don’t hurry this along. We have as much time as we need. There’s enough out there to worry about, but having time and what to do with the time we got shouldn’t be a real concern. Unless you know you’re wasting it. I gain an hour just by flying back to Springfield. I’ll lose it just by coming home. I’ll make up for it by making good on staying up later. Being more charming. Smiling until the blood returns to your hands. Working harder. I don’t work anymore, really. I live. Flutter.

_________________________

Jim Warner is the Managing Editor of Quiddity International Literary Journal and Public Radio Program at Benedictine University and the author of two poetry collections Too Bad It’s Poetry and Social Studies (Paper Kite Press). His poetry has appeared in various journals including The North American Review, PANK Magazine, and forthcoming in The Minnesota Review and Oyez Review.  He lives in Springfield, IL. Follow him on twitter @whoismisterjim.

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