I went for an echocardiogram recently. It’s the kind on thing where a mom looks up to see her unborn baby in the womb, only the target was my heart.

It was wet, with lots of conductive paste across my torso. And it was done in the dark. The machine was designed for that, it looked like airplane console lights, I imagined.

And there was sound: ker-wish…ker-wish, ker-wish, ker-wish, ker-wish, her-wish. It was a funny sort of sound that had been assigned to it. The technician checked the heart and the heart rate, moving back and forth from image of the heart to amplitude, those up-and-down lines showing beats-per-minute.

We have so many emotion-charged words and phrases for the heart. The heart is fond, it is constant, it stops in our throat, the heart knows, be still, my beating heart. If it were left to language, the heart would be all over the place. It would stop, but it doesn’t.

Ker-wish, ker-wish, ker-wish, ker-wish, ker-wish…

The machine gave it a kind a kind of fiery light, clearly showing the four chambers of the heart. And it moved around quite a bit. If I took a deep breath, the image disappeared.

I began to form a different idea of my heart, one of rock-solid constancy. It was a slave, this heart of mine. It was like a man with a shovel endlessly shoveling coal into a furnace. It was never too hot. It had reserves way beyond what I imagined my limit to be. It never got tired; it never slept, even for a moment. No naps! Always pumping blood through my system.

This coal-shoveler had the musculature of a man suited to his task. He had a flat stomach and sinewy muscles. He wore a skullcap, for some reason, and had rather large hands. He paid no attention to me. To do so, he would have had to pause. And that was one thing it could not do.

My job was to go through the world, inventing all sorts of paradigms and models, traveling through time, and lighting on far galaxies. Going where no man has gone before. His job was to shovel coal, matching me stride for stride, when he speeded us, I speeded up. When I relaxed, he relaxes but kept working. Without so much as a by-your-leave, a glance my way.

Hudson Owen All Rights Reserved

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