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Heartbeats This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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The doctor's office always made me nervous. Everything was so sterile and new that my very presence seemed to sully the place. I glanced around at the medical devices hung up on walls and pushed into corners, impressed with their apparent complexity.

I had always held a sort of reverence for the medical profession. It was, in my mind, elite, noble, and a little bit scary. I pictured doctors as sleek, intelligent young men and women who strode around hospitals curing diseases and performing surgeries while never losing their cool. I clung to these images of the medical profession, despite the fact that no doctor I encountered ever fit the ­description.

My pediatrician's name was Edna, and whenever I looked at her I was reminded of a tarantula in a white coat. Her hair was black and cut to her shoulders and frizzed to greater and greater degrees the further down her back it went. Her glasses magnified her eyes so much that it wasn't hard to imagine that they were actually eight little ones instead of two big ones. Needless to say, the sight of this spider disguised as a doctor struck terror into my 10-year-old heart.

When I climbed up onto the examination table, the sterile paper crinkled treacherously. Dr. Edna walked in and smiled. She approached me, brandishing her stethoscope, and began my check-up. She always checked my heart first. “Most important part of your body!” she would say. Her stethoscope crept to the left side of my chest and pressed into my skin. She listened, counting my heartbeats against the ticking of her watch.

She did this for a while. Eventually she emerged from her trance and looked at me, her two (or possibly eight) eyes meeting mine. “Your heart is whispering,” she said.

“Whispering?”

She turned to my father. “Olivia has a heart murmur, or an irregular heartbeat. It's not serious, but she should see a ­specialist.”

Whispers and murmurs. I didn't know what sounds everyone else's heart made, but mine whispered. I liked that.

A week later, I was sitting on another examination table covered in more crinkly paper. The specialist rubbed something gooey and blue all over my chest and used a small machine to smear it around. An ultrasound, he called it.

A blurry, black and white picture appeared on the screen: a pulsing mass. It was my heart, the doctor said. He told me his, my dad's, my mom's and most people's heart beats “ba bum, ba bum, ba bum.” But mine was different. He swirled the ultrasound machine around my chest and told me my heart went “ba bum, ba bum, ba bum, ba ba ba ba ba” instead.

I was thrilled. Everyone else's heart thumped the same, predictable thud. Not mine. Mine whispered songs and murmured secrets.

•••

My heart had long since quieted down. It thudded monotonously against my rib cage like everyone else's, but unlike everyone else I wasn't in the cafeteria eating lunch. I was locked in the bathroom, leaning against the wall, my hand pressed to my neck.

When I was 10, the heart doctor taught me how to feel my pulse. He told me there are two places. One on your wrist in the divot between the radius bone and the thumb, and one in your neck. I have long since discovered many other places to find a pulse, but not as strong. The carotid artery runs through the neck, providing vital oxygen to the brain. It's one of the body's largest arteries, and that's where the pulse is strongest.

So now, leaning against the wall, my fingers found that spot under my jawbone and next to my esophagus. I could feel each contraction of my heart. The harder I pressed, the stronger I could feel each wave of blood being pushed up to my head. I pressed so hard I was almost constricting my airflow, but that didn't matter. My pulse hadn't whispered in years, but just feeling the steady beat made me feel better.

Then something happened to distract me from my heartbeat. My eyes flashed open as someone walked in. Alone. Girls always go to the bathroom together and spend five minutes passive-aggressively fighting for the best spot in front of the mirror. A ritual I never quite understood. But no, she was alone. I heard the rhythmic thud of her shoes and the sound of the water rushing out of the tap. I heard her cry.

I should have gone and talked to her, listened to her. But I didn't. I couldn't? I was five feet away, separated by a bathroom stall covered in chipping green paint. She was trapped out there with her tears and the tapping of her feet, and I was trapped in here with a pulse.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.





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sempiternal_obsessionThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jun. 6, 2013 at 3:27 am:
"Mine whispered songs and murmured secrets." - I love this particular line:)
 
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JillianNora said...
Jan. 17, 2013 at 10:40 am:
Wow. This is incredible! Very strongly and descriptively written. You caught my attention in just the first few sentences and made me want to keep on reading. Very well done :)
 
readlovewriteThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. replied...
May 8, 2013 at 9:20 am :
Wow.  Really good writing.  I found myself thinking about my heart - the way I can feel it in my hands after a run - and you did a really good job of capturing each individual's pitfall.
 
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