There is a secret person undamaged in every individual.Paul Shepard Once there was a boy who carried his heart inside a glass jar. It was a beautiful heart. Ruby red. Juicy. Plump and rounded. It beat a steady tattoo, never faltering, never stopping. He loved his heart and carried the jar carefully where ever he went.
"Why do you carry your heart in a jar?" people would ask him and he would smile and quickly reply, "It's safer that way."
Sometimes, someone would put out their hand to greet him, or offer him a hug but the boy always backed away. "Oh no," he'd say. "I cannot shake your hand. I do not want to risk breaking my heart."
And so, he'd carry on his way, carrying his heart inside a jar, never touching anyone. As he travelled, no one ever stopped to ask him why he didn't carry it in his chest cavity, or how he got it into the jar. He never gave them the chance. After their first hello, before they could ask another question, he would walk away, leaving only silence behind him.
One day, the boy met a girl whose heart beat freely in her chest. She was filled with laughter and light, with eyes of wonder and a sweet voice that sang like a bluebird awakening to a spring morning.
The boy did not have a name for what he felt when he first saw her but when her beautiful soft pink lips smiled at him, his heart began to beat wildly in its glass jar. The jar quivered and shook, his hands shook too. He was frightened he might drop the jar and quickly tucked it into his pocket, out of sight so it would be safe.
"Hello," said the girl.
The boy greeted her back but was speechless. He had never met anyone so lovely, so beautiful, so free.
"Do you want to play with me?" the girl asked.
Still speechless the boy nodded his head up and down. The girl laughed. "Cat got your tongue?"
The boy shook his head from side to side and finally managed to find his voice. "No," he replied replied. "You're so beautiful."
The girl laughed again and said, "They tell me your heart is inside a glass jar. Show me."
The boy had never before been asked to show his heart. It had never been necessary. He hesitated. What did she mean?
The girl grew impatient and asked again. He hesitated. Silence surrounded him and he could not find the words to respond. Frustrated, the girl gave up asking to see his heart and ran away, calling behind her as her feet carried her off to see the world, "I never wanted to see it anyway. It's just a stupid heart."
The boy heard her words and became frightened. Stupid? How could his heart be stupid?
He didn't have an answer and pushed the question away. But, as he travelled he felt the freedom of having the jar inside his pocket and left it there. With his hands free, he didn't have to worry about his heart breaking and could greet people and smile and pretend to be like them and soon, everyone, including the boy, forgot about his heart inside its jar.
And then, one day, he met another girl with a sweet gentle smile and tender eyes. She didn't ask to see his heart. She didn't ask him anything. There was no need for words. He was relieved. He smiled at her and opened his arms. She didn't ask him anything but stepped into his arms and lay silently in his embrace.
He was happy. She doesn't have a voice, he thought. She will never ask to see my heart.
And he embraced her more closely.
He felt his heart quiver inside the jar where it sat safely tucked within his pocket. He felt himself relax. This girl was perfect, he told himself. Silent. kind. caring. Lovely and sweet. She will not make demands of me. She will not expect me to answer questions. This must be love. And he breathed deeply of its sweet nectar. This must be what everyone has talked about where ever I've travelled.
And they married and lived together in silent harmony.
For awhile, their love fit perfectly for him. They lived within a cone of silence. She would smile and he would smile back and feel his heart quiver inside its jar. He never had to name what he was feeling. He never had to show her his heart for she never asked. He was safe.
One day, a storm blew in from the north. It carried a vicious howling wind into the alleys and streets of the town where the boy and the girl lived. It swept debris up into its arms, hurled branches of trees through the air, banged windows and doors and crashed into whatever stood in its way, sweeping everything out of its path.
The girl and boy were out in the storm, having been caught far from home. They ran ahead of the wind but their feet could not carry them fast enough to outrun the wind's fury. The boy gripped the girls hand as they ran but still they were not fast enough. They felt the frigid breath of the wind snapping at their necks. Felt the wind's fury tugging at their coat tails. And still they ran.
Suddenly, a mighty gust swirled around them and tore their hands apart. The girl fell. The boy ran to pick her up and he too fell down. And as he fell he heard a tinkling of breaking glass. Blood began to ooze from his side. He felt a warm liquid running down his leg.
The girl crawled towards him and saw the blood. Its ruby red liquid glistening as it seeped across the snow upon which they lay.
He tried to hide the blood from her. Tried to hide his broken heart. But she would not take her eyes off of him. She kept crawling towards him, calling to him, "Let me help you. Let me help you."
The boy couldn't believe his ears. She had spoken. He looked at her from where he lay upon the snow, his heart bleeding between them and spoke to her for the first time. He had to yell to be heard above the howling wind which continued to swirl and dance around them. He had to call out loudly for her to hear him. "I can't," he yelled. "My heart is broken."
Just then, the wind died down and suddenly silence surrounded them. The girl stood up and walked towards him. She knelt down beside where he lay on the snow, touched his hand where it lay extended before him, reaching towards her.
"A broken heart is an open heart and an open heart is a loving heart," she said quietly.
Her voice was as sweet as a bluebird singing to awaken the sun on a spring morning.
"But you can't speak," he said, as he lay bleeding in the snow.
"I thought you couldn't speak," she replied. "You never spoke to me and I was happy in your arms. Love doesn't need words when two people share their hearts freely."
The boy began to cry. His heart bled out. The snow around him turned red. "I liked the silence," he replied. "It made me feel safe."
"You're always safe in love," the girl replied.
"But now it's too late," the boy cried out. "My heart is broken."
"Let me help you," she said again. And this time, he lay quietly as her gentle hands carefully picked the shards of glass out of his heart. With tender loving care she picked up the shattered pieces of his heart and tucked them back safely inside his chest.
He wanted to tell her he never carried it there. He wanted to tell her he only ever carried it inside a glass jar but words escaped him. He was once again speechless. For as he felt his heart rest gently inside him, he felt the blood flowing freely throughout his body. He felt his heart quiver. It shook. His hands shook too. But this time, he didn't worry about dropping the jar and breaking his heart. This time, he opened his arms and wrapped them around her and held her freely in his embrace.