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takotsubo cardiomyopathy

Gage Johnston is a documentary filmmaker currently working on a project called "Lucy has Worms." She has taught production at Scribe Video Center and University of the Arts in Philadelphia. She enjoys science fiction and all types of fantastical narratives.

I lived with Tom for six years and we were what I thought of as a "true couple." I felt a zing at the sight of him, at the sound of his voice I tasted caramel.
We met at a pitch. I pitched my data and he pitched his data. Neither of us got the job. We left together to grab a drink. Somehow everything he said was extra-interesting. His insights were never predictable and together I believed we understood something singular. We decided to share a space.
The owner of the building resisted leasing to us--we didn't take a compatibility test. Daring I know, but we thought it wasn't necessary; we got along. Finally, we paid an extra deposit since we were unwilling to prove our consonance with the building's regulated exam. Tom said we were a "mischievous twosome." He used words like that.
We had similar hours, levels of stress, and our wages were compatible. Income is the most important element of any relationship. What if I wanted to go out for a dinner and he couldn't afford it, what could be done? Legally I was allowed to lend a partner up to 10% of my income though I wouldn't do it, no one wanted to do that; it was socially icky.
On March 15 I was promoted. I smiled when they gave me the news but a hard space formed inside me. I couldn't bear to tell Tom. We met on the glide after work and I listened to his everyday stories. They were so sweet in my ears.
After dinner Tom confessed my work had contacted him, he knew about my promotion. He held my hands and said he understood I needed to move into a more impressive space and upgrade my transportation options. I felt the air foggy around us. There were words I wanted to say, but I didn't. Sentimentality was a ridiculous construct; everyone learns that in first grade. We knew that attachment was only a biological response to another person's smell, symmetry, and health. Pheromones and norepinephrine, serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, and vasopressin; these create the love experience. It was enjoyable but nothing to depend on. Our chemicals created a heady cocktail, but before we knew it our drink was drunk and our object of love an annoyance.
We shook hands when we said goodbye and then for some reason I said, "if you get a promotion you could reach out."
"My next promotion would leave me with an income almost twice yours."
"A leap frog."
"It's been a pleasure," I said.
"Ruby, you are a gem," he said. He always liked to tease me about my name.
A pain shot through my chest. I ignored it. I had read about this, takotsubo cardiomyopathy. A stress response. In the old days they called it broken heart syndrome. I knew better. Broken heart, please. I practiced my breathing control. Tom's hand was warm in mine. His hand different from all other hands. I pushed the thought away. It was absurd. The human is a complex algorithm, data input, and biology, DNA. Wisdom said there were many Toms. I could find happiness with many people.
I went to the hospital without mentioning my symptoms. A quick scan as a I walked through the door and a beta-blocker was dispensed.
An emotabot greeted me with, "statistically it is 99% likely that your promotion ended your partnership. Your partnership spanned five years and three months. Sixty-eight percent of the time you chose to pursue leisure activities together. A high compatibility. You are experiencing feelings of sadness."
It was such a very obvious thing to say, but emotabots often stated the obvious: "you are pleased," or "you are upset." I found them tedious companions but their popularity suggested I was in the minority.
"For the amount of time spent cohabitating two days is appropriate recovery time. I will contact you in three days."
Two days.
On the first day of my position I verbally asked my boss if I might not work from my new, impressive space. He was amenable. I didn't take the glide--I walked. If the boss registered the change in schedule a prescription would arrive, a mood enhancer. He was a busy man and I gambled it was not worth his time.
I worked but I did it curled up under a high count down quilt on my spectacular bed and I turned off companionbot. Alone I sang sad songs to myself.
On day three the emotabot appeared, "Would you like a new partner?"
"Sure." I said and with a quick scan I was provided with 63 choices. I refined by location. So nice if they live nearby, that left me with six. I refined by age and height. I didn't like someone too tall. Cross-referencing our schedules, a date ticket popped out. It was a go.
Martin, on paper, was perfect in every way. We had similar interests and income, of course. Looking at his picture I saw only someone who was not Tom. Tom. I had blocked him from all my devices, which gave me the freedom to punch in his code over and over. NOT FOUND flashed each and every time. I received a certain amount of satisfaction from the act. I had no illusion Tom would appear or that I would contact him and together we would buck society, neither of us was the type.
My date with Martin was pleasant. We had no conflicts and agreed on virtually everything. That night we wrapped our arms around each other.
He whispered, "Sara."
I whispered, "Tom."
The End
This story was first published on Monday, September 3rd, 2018

Author Comments

It's a bit embarrassing to admit to being a romantic: ideas of love have led to some terrific and some terrible things. I wrote this story projecting a time when all the feels are sneered at and we depend on algorithms and medications to run our lives until finally we can't admit to true friendship or genuine connection.

- Gage Johnston
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