A Heart of Glass

June 9, 2012
By Anonymous

I sit in a pretzel position on the concrete with shaggy hair obscuring my face while cupping the sides of my glass heart with grimy fingers. Displaying the heart in my hands on a pedestal box, I bare it to people in the hopes that they might fling their love at me. Love, money, it is all the same. Both change in value, come in different forms, and are given away as quickly as they are earned. I do not think anymore when I give my love away for food. I can only survive on one. However, my heart is worth more than the contents it holds. Given to me by mother, passed to my daughter, and returned back to me, my red teacup holds more memories than coins and paper.
My eyes stare into space as my hands travel along the cup. The chip on the side happened when my mother threw it on the ground during a drunken rage. Although the floor was carpeted, the cup scrapped against the wall. A dot of blue on the bottom appeared when my daughter spilled her paint which she was using for an art project. Luckily, the cup sat on the far side of the table. The brown stain on the inside, though it can’t be seen through the money, occurred when I drank too much tea. I forgot to wash the cup when my daughter was reposed.
As I glance with mixed emotions, my eyes gleam with pride and fear. I am smug that it has remained shiny all these years, attracting the eye of many a donor. I am terrified that a slight move could break it, scatter its shards on the ground.
I settle into a comfortable position and watch as I usually do, peering from behind my mass of blankets and dirt, to look at the business men and women in their tailored suits striding like giraffes with their upturned heads. Most of these people think there is only one heart and that it is the one compressing and expanding monotonously to make blood circulate through a body. If that was the case then everyone would be dead. People do not realize there also needs to be a heart that keeps spirit flowing through life. The callous streets of New York pulsate with throngs of people that clot corners, streets, and their will to live. Apparent in their dull eyes, some accept life like the order of road lights, fixed. My heart charms the people whose wanting eyes need life.
I polish the glass until the crimson glistens which catches the attention of a man wearing an especially stiff tie. The man contemplates the teacup for a moment with slight curiosity in his gaze before being drawn to the metallic glimmer of his watch. Reaching into a pocket, he tosses a poorly aimed coin at me and continues to walk.
“Thank you,” I say, but the man’s mechanical steps carry him out of reach before he can hear. I turn the box over and place my cup in one corner while dumping my money in the other. I count…1..2..5. Eight dollars for the day. 0.14…0.26…0.52. Seventy-two cents for the day. Maybe enough to buy a loaf of bread, water, and some cheese.
I muse about money when a shuffle of feet catches my attention. Several school children, no more than seventeen saunter near the ice cream shop I sit in front of. It is a school day, but it does not surprise me that the kids walk on my street. Most of my academic learning was spent at wandering the streets. I recall those days like a summer fog, fleeting and smoky.
Attached to the kids, my eyes follow them as they enter the ice cream shop. They wave around money given by parents and laugh without a wrinkle to blemish their skin. A feeling grips me as I clutch my heart. It is not jealousy I harbor. The kids do not know better. Many children are ignorant of the difficulties of life, sheltered from it like my heart is from the wind. No, I feel a pang of loneliness. I wonder to myself how my daughter is. Seven years have passed. She should be about their age.
It doesn’t take long before they walk out of the shop, holding their stomach while laughing. I watch as the ice cream drips onto the concrete. They seem oblivious to me as they gossip about the new trends. No, I am mistaken. A girl glances at me. Her face alight with joy sobers when she sees mine. She reaches into her pocket while the others group near me. They are unaware of her absence. Drawing out a bill the girl hands it to me, but before I can grasp it in my hand, a boy behind her playfully pushed by a friend, stumbles backward. Hitting her, the girl trips and loses balance. Things do not happen like the movies portray them. Action happens as quickly as the beating of a heart.
Her foot connects with my box, sending it into the air, sailing it above the concrete, tumbling it underneath the feet of a passing woman, and strewing its contents on the busy street. The girl apologizes profusely, a stream of words coming from her mouth as she hands me another bill. Her friends, now subdued, say they are sorry before looking away guiltily. Their faces turn sour as I do not speak. I only offer them a blank stare in no particular direction. One boy tugs the girl’s shirt, whispering sentences I cannot comprehend. She turns away, an uneasy look etched into her face before following her friends.
Finally my eyes begin to focus, though my brain is numb. Scattered along the sidewalk and dropping its way down the drains is a trail of coins. As my eyes get closer to the street, the trail narrows as the red appears. I close my eyes and will myself to continue breathing, but I cannot feel the pulse of my heart. With my eyes still shut, I see it: my little glass heart, burst on the black street.

The author's comments:
I went to New York City with my friends on a school field trip. We went to an ice cream shop, but didn't really see any homeless people in front of it. However, I did see somewhere else a woman with her infant child on the street. That's where I got my character. The heart was inspired slightly by kpop. (Hint: "Your my ....." has heart in it.)

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