Special Effects Photo – Nerves by Cassidy Hale
How to Lose Your Heart (and Learn from It) by Lauren Hilster
STEP ONE: find something to love. humans typically work best for this; they are irrefutably best at letting others down.
STEP TWO: pour yourself into them. fill their cracks with your golden hope and rinse their bloodied hands with warmed water. see past their mistakes and their flaws. see how those faults define their edges, make their jagged peaks seem nearly poetic. accept the excuses they mumble out between their teeth as they swallow back their pride. (for now be fooled, and pretend that they aren’t nearly choking on it).
STEP THREE: let them yell. let them scream. let them grab you by your wrists and grab you by your heart and rip into you with sharpened teeth, going right for the throat because they know that you’ll let them get close enough. they love the taste of your blood as it spills out for them, even if they say they don’t (don’t forget, angry words aren’t always false words).
STEP FOUR: realize that the necklace around your neck that holds their promise is only a collar with another name, made of diamond or thread. realize that they have smudged the fine print and withheld the details. realize that you are a perfect partner – anxiety that fetters you and a fear that ignores a heartbeat urging it to flee or fight.
STEP FIVE: remember the time that you sat in on the bathroom floor, against the bedroom wall, tucked in the closet’s darkest corner. remember that promise you swore to yourself when you were old enough to know to treat others as you would want to be treated.
STEP SIX: tell them no. watch them squirm. watch them reach for their war paint. watch them grip the car’s wheel. watch them say ‘okay’ (if their hard of hearts has softened enough, maybe it’ll melt all the way, but don’t be fooled; their trade is in tricks).
STEP SEVEN: you must clench your sword, steel your gaze, and pinch yourself if you must. do not fight the battle that you know will never be truly won, but do not let your guard down – they will think you have already lost the battle and come to conquer you all over again. watch them arrange their artillery and ready their cavalry and do not lose sight of the army’s king.
STEP EIGHT: know that you have already won this battle, this war. know that they will attack the great wall that you have painstakingly built from the vestiges of the one that once stood. you are building an empire without them. you are strong without them.
STEP NINE: hold your heart near as they assail the barricaded bulwark; it is bruised and must be cradled gently between your trembling fingers. know its weight and recall all that it contains. remember that it has been there longest for you and you must care for it as it does for you. do not surrender it to those who do not first seek diplomacy.
STEP TEN: breathe. the bruising will heal; the ache will fade; the foundations will be restored. your empire is awakening and aplenty with potential, and you are the key to seeing it through. do not blame yourself for the war drums that may continue to beat beyond the ramparts. after all, boiling water does not burn if it is heated slowly.