Hole In My Heart

scale
1

I was born with a hole in my heart. I’ve always thought that would make a good first line for a story but in reality, it wasn’t that dramatic. It was a small hole and by the time I was 5, it had dutifully, reflexively, anticlimactically healed itself.

Kathy was my first friend. She wore princess costumes and when we played cowboys and Indians at recess she was always the one who got tied to the tree. To defend her from the cowboys, I’d hoot and shriek and stab the air with a sharp stick.

My first job was at an ice cream parlor when I was 12. I liked the free sample I’d get during break but afterwards, I had to practice scooping perfect 8 ounce dollops onto a scale before I could get back to work. The manager would watch over my shoulder until I could produce three perfect scoops in a row. I got fired for giving a friend 12 ounces and I never liked ice cream again.

For a year and a half I was an only child and when my little brother was born they say I pulled out all the hair on the right side of my head. My father remarried and had three more and by the time my little sister was born, I was 16. That was the year I had sex for the first time. I knew I wasn’t in love but he was nice and it seemed better that way.

2

The best way to lose a friend is to call them best. A best friend will move away or storm off or drift aside or metamorph into a chrysalis or die. I could count my best friends on one hand but they keep slipping through my fingers. They fall through the hole in my heart but I still hear them murmuring in my ears.

My friend Alice remains friendly with ex boyfriends. They come to visit her when they’re in town. They hang out together.

Oh, no, I tell her. I would never do that.

Why not? she asks. He was part of your life. You cared for him once. What happened to that feeling?

That’s the problem, I say. I’m afraid the feeling never goes away.

3

You’re not really juggling until you’ve got three balls in the air, until your hands start thinking for themselves: throw and catch, grip and release. I don’t know how to juggle but I can imagine.

In an old address book, I wrote a list of the names of everyone I’d ever slept with. I lost the book and now I can’t remember.

4

2 children have passed through me and there are 11 crows sitting on the telephone line across the street from our house. The homeless woman in the green knitted hat sways from one foot to the other exactly 14 times before she crosses the street and I’ve been married for 16 years to the man I’ve been kissing for 22. Our house has 2 trapdoors, 8 doors, and 31 windows. So far, this poem has 520 words: the word 520 is the 521st. Do numbers count? I got three parking tickets this month totaling $136 dollars. It takes me approximately 1968 steps to walk to work.

How many kisses does that make? How many times have I washed this plate?

They say rich people know exactly how much they have. With their eyes closed, they can describe the contents of their wallets. I wonder which comes first, the money or the desire to count. I wonder: if you don’t count, how do you know what matters, and I think that if I count, then at least I’ll have that number after the counted is gone.

5

Recurring dream: I’m in a room full of treasures, heaps of precious things, but the clock is ticking so I have to scramble to grab as much as I can. I spend all night frantically shoving stuff into my pockets and when I wake up, I’m spent.

My mother has the same dream. She says after years she just decided to stop, look around, and claim the whole damn pile. In her dream it’s all hers now, so she doesn’t have to grab or worry.

I practice owning the whole pile.  I hold up my hand, squint, and hold it all, counting the gaps where the light gets in.

 

*

I thank Sherman Alexie for the inspiration for this almost-poem which I wrote after I read his poem Crazy Horse Boulevard in Tin House’s Summer Reading #52, Volume 13, Number 4.

What do you count?

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About Anna Fonté

Girl in the Hat, aka Anna Fonté, is an author who writes about invisibility, outsider status, everyday monsters, and her attempts to befriend the neighborhood crows. The things she writes want you to look at them.

196 comments

  1. The number of times I dream of a tsunami.

  2. Lines, angles, shapes, all kind of forms, colors … how often they repeat in a certain pattern and how often this pattern repeats itself in a bigger picture. Sometimes I count without knowing. Sometimes I count to three and then start all over again. Sometimes I forget that I’m counting.

  3. I love the pacing and phrasing of this piece. Lucky for us there’s a way you gather the light in.

  4. I used to count the number of steps to the shops, to school, to the park, every day. The number of mouthfuls to drink a glass of whatever, it had to be eight or sixteen. The number of books I read instead of doing homework, that was easy, it was one every day. The number of lovers I almost had, could have had, ran from and hid behind my nervous laughter.
    What I counted became different — the number of times I fucked up, which is always easy to remember what with so many people helping to point them all out. And the number of people I lost, which adds up to a lot when you start getting brave and walk into the past and the future and now.
    So now — I still count of course, but not everything. Every time I don’t count something, it feels like a gift, a reward for letting things Be. But sometimes I catch myself counting my gifts, and how many things I don’t count.

  5. 1. I never count in my dreams. Why?
    2. I never know exactly how much I have until I lose it.
    3. I don’t need a list to remind of who I had sex with I am thinking I need to forget this too.
    4. I can always count on you to make me think like a writer.

  6. ahhhh….this is good. now i want to sherman’s piece.

    i had a slip of paper no bigger than a post it note (but it wasn’t a post it note, and it was white) that i kept in my wallet starting when I was in college. it had the names of all the boys i had slept with. i lost it sometime during my marriage, but have no idea when.

    i count the number of things i can do in the morning while brushing my teeth. a weird habit, i start brushing and then, while still brushing, i do whatever–rinse my coffee cup, make sure my daughter’s folder has everything she’s supposed to have, change laundry over, all the while counting how many tasks i’m knocking out. it’s this weird little satisfaction game i have. if i get more than 5 i feel like i’ve won somehow. some days, i sit on my bed and rebel by doing nothing but watching morning joe and inevitably i feel like i’ve lost afterwards.

    i don’t think i’ve ever told anyone that before.

  7. I absolutely love the line about friends slipping through your fingers. I could feel that inability to hold, to retain, or maybe hold back. What do I count? Dollars in the hopes that one time I’ll count and they will have magically doubled. I also count them to reassure myself that they are there, and have not vanished like my mother’s household funds did. I never want to repeat her loss, her begging from friends, and those friends calling the child, me, wondering why my mother had not paid them back yet. Nor the secrets, keeping financial problems hidden from dad so they wouldn’t cause him stress. Guess it was okay to stress out a nine year old. So I count money for reassurance that I’m okay.

  8. I’ve never counted! Which is either very mature or incredibly stupid or a Little bit of both. Initially I think it was from superstition and a fear of losing the things I might want to count. Now I realise its cause the things that are worth counting are exactly those that cannot be quantified! Love, joy, laughter, sadness, anger, health, smiles…all uncountable and precious!

    • I suppose that makes sense– the not-counting, I mean– if you know how much you have, you’ll know how much you’ve lost. I guess keeping track of my losses is as close as I can get to keeping them.

  9. I don’t count. I hate numbers. If I thought on this for a while, I could tell you why. I love your work, it is always thought provoking. I had a sister who was born with a hole in her heart. Hers was evidently bigger than yours because she died after two days. If I sound dispassionate about it, it’s because I never knew her. I spent the weekend at my brother’s celebrating his birthday with him. On Sunday morning we sat outside and there were two crows at the top of a pole having a lively conversation. It made me think of you and how you write about crows.

  10. I wonder what the crows were saying. I wish you’d tell me why you hate numbers. I’m very lucky my heart healed itself.

  11. I was born with a floppy epiglottis… it doesn’t resonate the same, does it?

  12. Todd

    When we were little my big sister made a list, no an inventory, of every piece of candy in her Halloween bag. We had already eaten ours. We’re pretty sure she is rich now, but we don’t know because she never talks about that and we don’t ask. My little sister is upside down on her mortgage and just makes her payment. I couldn’t afford a house until I was almost to old to need it. I think the counting comes first.

    22 – 16 = conservative? 5 – 4 = crazy?

    • Wow. Having the candy is better than eating it. I wish I could do that, but the Reeces get me every time. By now she probably has a huge towering tsunami mountain of candy.

      • Todd

        I had a best friend for a long time. We met in 7th grade at MVMS. Both our parents were divorced and our homes were wild and in disarray. We used to say we raised each other. We smoked pot and drank and fixed up old cars and partied all through High School. I was in the next room making out with his sister while he did it for the first time with her best friend. We went off to College in Santa Barbara and shared an apartment. I was at the pawn shop when he bought the ring… was his best man… brought the cigars when his son was born. Years later we started a business together, then another. We knew the risks and ignored the maxims. Never do business with friends or family… we were both. He lied to our clients. He stole their money. My grandfather’s name was on the letterhead. I never spoke to him again. 15 years now and I still dream about him. I miss him. My best friend.

  13. Oh god, the best way to lose a friend is to call them best. So true that even typing your sentence out loud hurts my heart.

  14. The part about losing friends = crying.

    When I was 5 I counted the stripes on the sheet on either side of my pillow to make sure it was in the middle.

    I drink in sips of 7, but not too close together because it must be an odd number and it I take 7 sips and then another 7 right after it’s 14 and that’s an even number.

    I started counting stairs when my Border Collie got arthritis and needed to be carried up and down.

    I eat sweets in groups of three.

    I can’t count how many people are no longer in my life whom I miss terribly.

  15. It was full moon last night. And as I lay awake, making lists of all the things I haven’t done, the only sound I could hear was a lone crow, yawping at the moon. Maybe he was counting all the friends he’d lost? I don’t know, but it sounded just like that echo from the hole in your heart where best friends disappear.

  16. My breath. I’ve lost it. And I don’t even want it back.

    Pure and beautiful.

  17. kikikings

    Reblogged this on Head Talk.

  18. I count sleeps. My granddaughters are visiting from interstate. Last sleep was last night. Hooray!
    I don’t understand poetry, I just know that I like your poem very much. If everyone wrote poems like yours I’d be more into them.
    My son kept up friendships with his ex girlfriends until his fiancé put a stop to it. Now his only best friend is his wife.

  19. Love it! Nicely done.
    When I was a kid, I counted a lot. I counted red volkswagons for a couple of years. Got to over 2,000. The worst was memorizing, though. With a touch of OCD, I would repeat the numbers on the TV dial over and over and I couldn’t stop. 4,5,7,9,20.22,4,5,7,9,…
    I also memorized all the books on the bookshelf in the den and said them over and over and over and…if I got called in for dinner in the middle, I had to finish the book titles before I could move.
    Hair pulling is called trichotillomania – it’s a form of OCD.
    Congrats on the FP!

  20. I count steps. When I was in college, I could tell you the number of steps in pretty much any part of any building. I still count the steps up to my apartment every time I go up or down them. I try to stop myself, but I can’t.

  21. Thank you for writing this – short sharp and beautiful – totally engrossed me!

  22. FP’d again!!! Wow. Congratulations! This is so almost melodic and has a childlike voice that is at once familiar and far away.

    I am at a writer’s conference this weekend, but always check to see if any of my friends get Presed and you did!

  23. I count the number of ice cubes I put in a glass or water bottle or thermos. It doesn’t really matter how many I put in because I always fill them up to the top with ice before filling them with water or juice or whatever liquid I want to drink.

    I used to have a re-occurring dream of my teeth breaking apart into sharp tiny pieces and spitting them out into my hand by the handfuls. Just when I thought I had run out of teeth, I would find they were all still there, still breaking apart and spitting out more and more handfuls, it would never end until I woke up. I didn’t count them. I didn’t need to. I knew it would never end.

  24. ~ Hi Anna! I really liked #2, had the same experience…hehe! Your post made me smile. 🙂 Congrats on being FP! Cheers! – Bliss,The Lurker’s List

  25. All I can say is that a best friend is always a best friend, it doesn’t matter if they move. My best friend Michaela lives in America, and I live in England, I met Michaela as school. She was my most difficult friend to make. We connected because we both love art and creative things. Once I went over to America and we didn’t get on. Her husband said, you know Michaela doesn’t see you that much, and if you fall out you may not end up being friends. He didn’t get it. If you have a best friend, they are like an extension of your family, they are your blood, you can fall out a hundred times, and they will always be with you and you will always be with them. Everything else is just dramatics and circumstances. (I hope you dont mind if I do a quick plug of my new website) – Come to my website its great!!!

    http://www.countrygardengifts.co.uk

  26. whylieto

    I like how you sequenced this, a lot more than I may actually show with these few words.

  27. hey was this post freshly pressed – if it was congrats! if it wasnt – it should be!

  28. This writing is fabulous – precise, evocative, very easy to absorb. Thanks and congrats on the FP nod!

  29. Look who’s famous.

    I count breaths, but not my own,
    And streetlamps, and airplanes, and stars too,
    And my star count is 5,342.
    (I count some stars more than once because I don’t want to stop counting them.)
    But what I like to count most is almost lovers.
    That is, friends who are more than friends but less than lovers,
    And the count keeps increasing every year,
    And I’m not sure if that is good or bad.

    I tip my hat to you, Doppelgänger.

  30. The question of counting just reminds me of Le Petit Prince with the puzzlement at the grown ups, particularly the accountant, and the stars…

  31. Nice to find your site! I am a boy (well, a man allegedly…) in a hat. Keep on spilling your guts so endearingly. I’ll be back! Best, TG

  32. Beautiful. Thanks for this loveliness.

  33. Just astonishing, delightful turns and surprises in the writing. Big love. Also enjoy Sherman Alexie though they say his ego is monstrous I still feel the guy sure can write.

  34. I’m not sure what it is about this piece that appealed to me so much, but I really loved it. I don’t count much actually – apart from maybe shoes, because I have so few (5 pairs, that’s including trainers and wellington boots) and it makes some people laugh, because I’m a woman so I should love shoes and I should have more. Congrats on the freshly pressed, which is how I found you:-)

  35. Lovely writing!
    The feeling never does go away.

  36. Kassandra

    This was absolutely beautiful, I’m in awe at the moment. The part about friends slipping through your fingers really pulled at heartstrings, been there, still there.

    I count all my happy memories, and I count how much tea I have!
    Keep writing such amazing things

  37. I’m really excited reading about dreams and personal stories. I’ve experienced this one during my childhood. Thank you for sharing that!

  38. Touching piece. The feeling never goes away. It’s exactly how I feel each time I ‘lose’ a friend. I still remember the best friend I had in primary school whom I didn’t manage to keep in touch. I tried very hard but eventually I realised everyone had different priorities in life and I just fell out of the list. It hurts each time round when I make a friend – I think I put in too much than what’s needed and expected the person to reciprocate. These days I give my best shot at friendships and spend more time on myself. It’s less exhausting for myself when I don’t bend over backwards for friendships and I give whatever I feel like giving. In this way, I still do my best but I don’t expect anything in return.

  39. kickstuff

    This was an incredible read !

  40. kickstuff

    Reblogged this on kickstuff and commented:
    Love this.

  41. ” I could count my best friends on one hand but they keep slipping through my fingers” Wow, I loved that line. Great job~

  42. This is beautiful, as so many have already said.

    I count readers of my writing and try not to let their numbers influence how I feel about the value of my creations.

  43. I am pretty sure I enjoyed the comments as much as the post. You have quite the collective here. Your story reminds me of the day I realized I was alive, which was also the day I died–Sitting alone staring at the emergency contact line in my address book, still blank. Good times.

  44. I’m math challenged so I don’t count.

    “The best way to lose a friend is to call them best. A best friend will move away or storm off or drift aside or metamorph into a chrysalis or die. I could count my best friends on one hand but they keep slipping through my fingers. They fall through the hole in my heart but I still hear them murmuring in my ears.” I LOVE this!

    And yes, I think it would make a great first line for a book. Why not? It reminds me of the opening line to Brady Udall’s “The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint”: If I could tell you one thing about my life it would be this: when I was seven years old the mailman ran over my head.

    See, your line is even better because it is shorter and more to the point!

  45. reverendjanepettit

    I loved reading this! Can’t put my finger on it yet. For me, it’s not what I can count that’s important. It’s what counts.

  46. I love all of these, but number 5 rules…

  47. You’re voice is wonderful in these pieces! Very well written! Earned my follow for sure 🙂

    Check me out if you have some time!

  48. what a piece…brilliant absolutely….i read and re-read so many times, i counted my reading and that was 6.
    loved your randomness…had me gripping throughout. well done.
    congratulations on being freshly pressed.

  49. Reblogged this on aramintameara and commented:
    glad I found this. very informative

  50. A wonderful piece: the awareness is so sharp and yet the language is so gentle.
    Cheers, Laurie Keim

  51. You have an interesting prospective on life. I especially like the room filled with goods. The prize is not the goods but the room where you can have the prize for that is your room and you share it with your mother.

  52. phebek108

    You captured me with your first sentence. I like how you write: you write well. I’ve become a follower! Thanks!

  53. this is beautiful. I totally agree with the thing about exes.

  54. Reblogged this on aurorayebin and commented:
    very beautiful. I can feel somethings in this beautiful poem.

  55. Reblogged this on Musica de mi vida and commented:
    Some things are like little puzzle pieces put together- they’ll look random, but put in the right place, make perfect sense.

  56. I love your almost poem. It was the first line that got my attention and you say it wasn’t that dramatic. I love your name and work. It’s very whimsical and fun to read and say.

  57. This so amazing and I feel like im actually hearing the thoughts as soon as they come out of someone’s mind. It feels like a diary, kind of. Love it so much!

  58. mraetrt

    Reblogged this on mraetrt.

  59. Whimsy Leigh

    I have to admit I usually reserve commenting for those who have top of the line work, but no comments. So many of those out there on wordpress and not enough hours to reach each other.

    Your writing is excellent. The sentence structure shows great craftsmanship that appears to come naturally. Nothing is forced. Very richly crafted work. Kudos.

  60. Minister Raines

    Ah, counting. The application of symbolic abstraction to the formulation of sum sort of conclusion. I suppose the most simplistic answer is that I count numbers, since they are the only way any of us count 🙂

    As a child I counted everything in pairs. I was the kid who would ask adults “wanna hear how far I can add?” Then, I would go into the “2 + 2 is 4, 4 + 4 is 8…” until I either reached somewhere in the thousands and got tired or the person listening became bored. Haha.

    I absolutely loved reading this almost=poem. Brilliant!

  61. I enjoyed this. I love the pace and the (semi) stream-of-consciousness style–this is poetry served best, in my opinion.I used to write more often than I do now. I’ve fallen into the rhythm of things and am trying to swim back out. Just wrote my own piece (not yet fully developed), but, after a few years of not opening my heart and pen, I’d say it’s worth sharing: http://mahamuslimah.wordpress.com/2013/09/23/high-tides-a-love-story/

  62. You revealed to me why I never call something my “best” anything. I could never put words to the feeling until now.

  63. loved the post, related to some parts …. inspiring (y)

  64. Sometimes what counts is not a number one keeps.

  65. I stopped counting and lost count. I don’t know how many times I was able to fly in my dreams, but many many many times.Today I actually could not even remember how old I was gonna be next year. 🙂

  66. I’m number 282 to like this. That is also my lucky number… Coincidence? Or maybe I was meant to read this, It was very inspiring to me, thanks.

  67. This is seriously fucking amazing. Something I would definitely study in one of my creative writing classes!

  68. awesome writing….loved it all the way

  69. Wanderlushh

    I like the simplicity of the writing in this poem! I’m also a lover of numerology! My number is 33, I see it everywhere, all the time! I’ve tried writing a few things about it, this has given me a few good ideas 🙂

  70. Sow Green

    Reblogged this on Sow Green and commented:
    Good for a smile and the imagination.

  71. I count the number of years since I’ve had a serious relationship, and the number of tears I’ve shed over that, and the weight of the bitterness I feel over the fact that life is seldom what I want it to be. I used to count 1 to 5 over and over again during songs (each syllable a number, I guess; glad that’s history). “She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah” would be “One two three, four, five, one” (complete with fingers), and on and on. I count the days since I’ve felt like writing. 28+, since you asked. I count the empty beer cans in the morning.

    “I still knew you before you were a famous writer”–such a petty thing to say, but it makes me smile. Your second time on FreshPressed, maybe? But, um, what was it I was going to say about that–oh yeah, “Who’s counting?” 😉 They’re playing Nina Simone “Feeling Good” at the end of a TV show right now, isn’t that nice? It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day. I want to say that, I really do.

    Lovely work, by the way, Anna.

    • Kevin! Good to see you, old friend. Yes, you were one of the first people I met here, you and Re. It’s been a long time, huh? Let’s not count the years, okay? (Nina Simone always makes me feel goood.) xoox

  72. Love the line about “best.” Why count?

  73. anggun3

    this really poke a hole in my heart and it bleeds, again. bravo for writing down what’s stuck in my chest as i can’t do it myself.

  74. Love your style humorous authentic poignant real life far better than fiction can’t make this stuff up

  75. so honest, straight out of the heart…lovely 🙂

  76. Pingback: Freshly Riffed 50: Anniversary Edition! | A VERY STRANGE PLACE

  77. So clever, honest, and inspiring. Made my day. Thank you for sharing this brilliant writing.

  78. Pingback: Plum Tree Pick Of The Week | On The Plum Tree

  79. Love your work and in the spirit of getting the word out about great writers, have shared over at
    http://ontheplumtree.wordpress.com/2013/09/28/plum-tree-pick-of-the-week/
    Hope you will stop by. Some fine writers and artists there.

  80. I just saw your site, but I can’t say anything else that I’m actually stunned. You write really good.

  81. Hi girl in the hat- I wondered if you would allow me to do a guest post on your blog? If you want, you can come and read some of my stuff and see if you like what I write about and make a decision. \

    Thank you, Hefty journie

    • Hi–
      I like to connect with people here. This is where I am– I’m not just skimming though. For me this is more than a platform, and in three years of blogging, I have only had two others contribute, and both of those people were good, long friends. I hope you find a good place for your guest post, heftyjourney.

  82. I find myself counting things too…hopefully, not too compulsively. This is a great piece. Glad I found your site. I will be back.

  83. Eko

    Damn.. it’s touching T_T

  84. Pingback: Hole In My Heart | soul2soulsisters

  85. I really, really enjoyed this. It is simple but so elegant, and I really appreciate that. It’s something I strive for in my own writing… how to be poetic without drowning in words that no one really cares the meaning on. So glad I stumbled upon this!

  86. Such a beautiful piece! I find myself counting time, because for me that has been the only thing worth counting. In particular i like to play with time zones, and imagine myself as a time traveler. I live in the USA, but visit New Zealand frequently, and i still find it fascinating that you can leave New Zealand at a particular time, and arrive in the USA at that exact same time and relive the whole day. I imagine that iss the closest to time travel i will experience.

  87. I counted the times my parents kissed, a list finished before it started. I count my mother’s sighs and my father’s sad attempts at covering up his emotions.

    I count the bricks in the path until I’m blinded by a daydream and the clouds in the sky until I notice the speedometer breaking eighty.

    I count bruises on my legs, phantom injuries at work. And I count my mosquito bites divided by the minutes spent outside.

    Don’t count on me drawing any clever, deep conclusion from this list of lists.

  88. It was great to re-encounter you this morning. It looks like we might have more things in common than we realized, when you commented on my blog back in March. In any case, I very much enjoyed reading this today. — Ann

  89. I yarn to write like you. that’s all I can think of after reading that. You’re inspirational

  90. Reblogged this on Ile Ayo – The house of joy! and commented:
    this is the kind of writer I want to be. Its not going to happen in a day, but I can smell the passion. I only have to figure out what the ingredients are. PEACE.
    -Ayo.

  91. I make lists of things determined by their colour. It helps me remember them – particularly when I travel. The list becomes sort of rhythmic and then I start to look for things when a particular colour list is too short. Try it – its quite fun!

  92. Pingback: “Best” Friend(s) | Ile Ayo - The house of joy!

  93. Pingback: Experiment with Formats | The Daily Post

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