She put her heart in a box every Tuesday and took it to the market.
It was a small box, because it was a small heart.
It sat on a bookcase in the corner of her living room for many years, and by the time it began it's weekly trip outside, it was not much larger than a tangerine.
She had tried keeping it in the freezer because she had read this would keep the heart fresh and when she was ready to use it, it would be good as new, but the heart got a bad case of freezer-burn. She had to cut away a great deal of it and afterward, she decided that she should be careful with the piece she had left.
The heart now lived in the closet under a pile of band t-shirts that belonged to people who had borrowed it to write songs about. These people would always forget to return it and she would have to retrieve it from tables covered with dirty ashtrays or the bunks of tour buses where it was tossed back and forth, like a football, between shows.
Her doctor had suggested bringing her heart out every week, as an exercise, and though this made her very nervous, she agreed to try. This doctor was very expensive and required the taking of three buses to get to his office, so she did not want to have made such effort for nothing. She chose Tuesdays and said she would let him know if she needed another appointment.
That was when she got the box.
It was a wooden rectangle, lined with turquoise silk. She liked how pretty the red looked against the bright blue cloth.
The first time she took it to the market she did not know where to put it. Other people had fancy tables to display their hearts, but she had only brought her backpack. She set the box on a patch of ground that looked mostly clean, leaned against the railing of the staircase that led down to Steiner's Seafood Grotto, and waited.
The box was very quickly picked up by a boy with curly brown hair who liked the shape of it. He took it home and tried to play video games with the heart and get it to make snacks for him but that is not what hearts are for.
When it couldn't do what he wanted he threw it against the wall and shouted "this heart is stupid. I hate it!" He crammed it into a plastic grocery bag and brought it back to her. She took it to her room and put it back in the closet until the bruises had healed. A few months later she decided it was ready to be taken out again.
The next time at the market, she made potential owners fill out a questionnaire. Which television shows they watched. The kind of charcuterie they got at the little deli around the corner. One man had very good answers, ones that made her laugh, so she agreed to let him take the box back over the bridge to the big city he lived in. He really liked the heart but he had only wanted one to look at every few days and perhaps remember what it was like to have one in the house. The heart got lonely and decided it would rather sit under a pile of shirts that were worn-in and comfortable than be pulled out and polished until it just started to sparkle, and then be shoved right back into a cabinet for another week.
She had just about given up on her doctor's advice when she heard about a man who had a shop in the basement of the market. For a small price he would cast her heart in glass so it would stay the same forever. No more ache or pain. Always red, young and beautifully detached.
She took the box and her Virgin de Guadalupe piggy bank to the shop and asked the lady outside smoking a cigar if she was in the right place.
"Have it belong just to you, right? No one messing with it anymore? Sure, Sugar" the woman said, "We get gals like you in here ALL the time. Usually they're a bunch fatter or have a mess of tattoos or Botox by now. Congratulations. Sixty-five dollars. Cash or Discover card."
She felt like this was a very good price to make sure her heart was fossilized and no further harm could come to it so she handed the lady three twenty-dollar bills and one five and opened the tinted glass door.
She was surprised to find herself in a room with a large square furnace burning in the center of it. She had thought it would be like dropping off something to get framed or gift-wrapped and she wasn't sure what to expect.
There was a large man with a beard and Mickey Mouse ears standing at the door of the fire. He looked like a bear dressed like a clown dressed like Santa and she liked him immediately.
"Hey, Ladybug" he growled at her, but in a nice way. "You lost? You don't look like you have a problem with your parts"
She didn't know how to answer. He was right. There were no problems with her parts. She just wanted to protect them.
She held out the box and said 'I wanted my heart to grow, but it didn't, so now I want you to save the part that is left'.
He took it from her and looked inside.
"That is a very nicely formed heart" he said to her. "Even the part that is missing is well-healed and seems to be working just fine"
"But every time I give it to someone they hurt it and it makes me sad. I just want you to put it in a glass and it won't feel that way anymore"
The man had seen girls like this before. And it made him glad that he had chosen a profession that really, truly helped people.
"Leave it with me, Kitten. It should be ready by 5"
She handed him the box and went to eat pizza and look in the windows of the antique stores that lined the bottom floor of the market.
A few hours later she had had three slices of sausage and mushroom, a piece of rum cake, a root beer, and purchased a brass bottle opener shaped like a monkey. She returned to the shop and knocked, since the shades were now pulled over the windows and the woman with the cigar was gone.
After several attempts, she started to worry that maybe leaving her heart in the basement with a strange bearded man was a bad idea when the door flew open and Mickey-Santa yanked her inside.
"Wait until you see it, " he howled with glee, "I've never done anything like this one!!!"
And he hadn't.
When a heart is immersed in molten silica, it incinerates. Most of his previous clients had been fine with having their organs resembling mesquite coals as long as it meant that they were never subjected to the pain that comes with having a fleshy, beating heart exposed to the world for it to kick until bloody.
This heart was different. When cast, it exploded into a crimson rainbow. The muddy brown of decay and the Crayola red of birth and intention, and it swirled into purple and blue and then red again.
It almost made him sad to give it back to her, but when he saw her face light up, he knew that he had achieved what all artists hope for, and that is pure emotion.
She was very pleased with her new heart.
It was heavy and a thousand times more fragile than it had been before and yet seemed so impenetrable and she knew she had made the right choice.
When she got home she almost put it back on the shelf in the closet but decide to put it on the windowsill instead.
Now that it couldn't be hurt anymore, it was time to let in the light.