art by Ron Sanders
Because My Heart Is Pure
by Rahul Kanakia
***Editor's Note: Adult story, with adult language and situations***
While I shower, I hold the golden heart-shaped pin in my left hand. I was wearing this pin when I first met James. Most of the pure-hearted get their pins at a support-group meeting. I ordered mine off the internet. Whenever I'm not wearing it, my stomach juices boil over and my heart twitches. Without it, I am naked and anonymous. With it, I am pure of heart. Sometimes, at the meetings, I am tempted to ask the others whether they feel the same. But I don't. After all, why should they feel dependent on a piece of metal? They carry their identity in their genes.
When I get out of the shower, it's nine p.m. and James still isn't home. On my fourth dial, he finally picks up and says, "Can't talk now, I'm at an orgy. This place is amazing. I'll tell you all about it in the morning! Oh, and have fun at your meeting!" Then he hangs up. I consider redialing, but I know that the phone is probably nestled amongst his wadded-up clothes in a metal locker just beyond the door of some anonymous SoMa warehouse.
And besides, if I get too frantic, then even someone as self-absorbed as James might begin to suspect that I'm not as pure of heart as his last boyfriend.
James will fuck anyone, but he'll only date the pure of heart. James is not pure of heart, but he hates jealousy and drama. He says that only the pure of heart are truly mature. I think that whenever he says this, he is hoping that I will interrupt him and tell him that he's as mature as any of us (any of them). But that will never happen.
No one would ever mistake James for one of the pure of heart.
While I drive to my meeting, I repeat to myself, again and again, "It's not his fault. It's not his fault. It's not his fault." It's my mantra. Without it, I'd start to hate him. But it's true. It's not his fault. He doesn't know that I am capable of being hurt.
The meeting is in the North Bay mansion of a millionaire venture capitalist. It takes me almost an hour to drive there. Many other meetings are closer, but I go to this one because it's the one that Henry, James' ex-boyfriend, attends.
I arrive just before the start of the meeting. Seven other people are sitting on couches and overstuffed chairs around a low table with a perfectly lacquered black finish. The millionaire is bustling about, dispensing beers. Henry has one leg crossed over the other. I cannot stop looking at his angular, slightly unshaven face. His straight black hair hangs down to his shoulders and he periodically flips it out of his eyes with a slight snap of the head and neck that, God willing, will someday cause some sort of whiplash injury that will leave him paralyzed and drooling.
Usually, meetings begin with an expectant silence--the pure-hearted tend to avoid putting themselves forward--but today the floor is immediately taken up by a pregnant woman who shifts uneasily in her chair and grinds out words between slow movements of her hips.
"The amnio results came back today," she says. "He doesn't have the gene. We always knew there was a chance... but... I had to come here. My husband was upset too, of course, but he kept looking at me in this fearful way. That's how he is. He's always waiting for me to pull off my mask and start yelling at him."
A moment of silence, then Henry says, "Well, do you want to yell? We're allowed to feel angry, you know."
"No, no, I'm not angry. I knew when I married a clouded heart that this might happen. It's just... my little boy isn't even born yet, but I already love him so much. And it makes me so sad that he's never going to be able to love himself in the same way. It makes me sad that he's always going to be so insecure and confused and angry and envious and... I mean... even my husband makes me upset sometimes. If he could only see himself the way that I see him, then I just know that all his problems would vanish. But that's not possible. My boy is going to drift along in that same mire, and no matter how desperately I love him, that love is never going to touch his heart. And who knows, maybe he'll turn to drugs or gangs or... god, I don't know... they contain so much sorrow. I just hoped that he would be free from all that."
Nodding heads and a hum of agreement.
Her face settles into a more neutral expression. "Thank you... I already feel better. I think I just needed to let it all out."
Inside, I sneer at her. Her sorrow will be gone by morning. They are like automatons that are trying to program themselves to feel having human emotions.
I say, softly, "At least you'll be able to give him the kind of love that a mother with a clouded heart never could." A love that was unmixed with resentment or disappointment.
Eyes narrow. I've hit a sour note. Even in private, the pure of heart don't like to admit that their performance is in any way superior to those with clouded hearts. Everyone ignores my comment.
The discussion moves on. A young man openly wonders whether to put his status on his resume. Employers love the pure of heart, but he doesn't want his coworkers to resent him. Opinion in the room is evenly divided. Only three of the attendees are wearing heart-shaped pins.
Henry twirls his pin with an index finger as he says, "A former lover once told me that whenever he said something in a business meeting that was even slightly argumentative or controversial, he'd worry all day about whether he'd just made an enemy. Ever since then, I've worn it just to let people know that they don't really need to worry about offending me."
Right. Of course. Everything they do is always so fucking selfless.