On the phone, you mention her in passing. I change the subject and end the call, but it’s already too late. Her name is a blade, sharp and shiny, slicing straight into the tough muscle of my heart. I yank it free without thinking, doubling the pain, and now there’s blood everywhere. I press a dish towel against my chest and call 911.
Press 1 for gun violence, a robotic lady voice says. She sounds almost bored. Press 2 for car accident. Press 3 for stabbing. I don’t wait to hear the other options.
Press 1 if your stabbing was metaphorical, the lady voice says.
“What?” I ask, but the voice keeps talking. Press 2 if there is real blood.
I look down at the dish towel. I’m holding it to my chest with my left hand, but I release it for a split second, just to check.
There is no blood. I press 1.
The lady voice tells me that some stabbings take place in the emotional ether. They hurt like real wounds but require a different kind of treatment.
The voice recommends that I lie on a bed or a couch or the floor. I get down on the kitchen floor because the bed and the couch are light-years away. I put the dish towel under my head. I have lived in this apartment for six years, but I have never lain on the laminate tile before. It’s not as cold as I’d have guessed.
The bored lady voice tells me to take a deep breath and then another. It counts aloud, guiding each inhale and exhale. I breathe and breathe, over and over. I can’t tell if it’s helping.
Put your hand on your heart, the voice says. I do.
You are whole, the voice says. It asks me to say “I am whole” out loud. I feel silly, but I do it. Your feelings matter, the voice says. It makes me say that, too.
You will get through this, the voice says. “I will get through this,” I say. It almost sounds like the truth.
Thank you for calling, the voice says. For further assistance, press 1 to speak with a representative. Press star to return to the main menu. Or, if you’re ready, feel free to hang up.