At the heart of the matter
By Wood Reede
You read somewhere that sleeping on your left side can wear out your heart. This does not make sense. You want to tell whoever concocted this flawed theory that they’ve got it wrong. Loving the wrong people—that’s what wears out a person’s heart. Let’s be honest, just loving at all is a trail, a virtual cardiac marathon. You tell yourself, if you could just love the right people, your heart would be okay, might possibly thrive, better yet survive or at the very least would not wear out quite so quickly.
Your eye falls upon an artichoke resting on the kitchen counter. You wonder—do artichokes have similar issues? Protected by thorny petals, surely an artichoke’s heart feels no pain. You think that perhaps you should learn to do the same.
You practice thinking like an artichoke, which begs the question: what does an artichoke think about? You resolve to get closer to this noble vegetable and so you go to the store and select the largest artichoke you can find. You are hopeful that such a robust being will be well versed in all matters of the heart—protection and otherwise. The artichoke is more than happy to oblige. You feel its eagerness to help through the plastic of your recycled bag.
You take the artichoke home, study it, talk to it. It doesn’t say much, in fact nothing at all, but you begin to feel a connection. The artichoke is so earnest, so invested in your search for answers, so willing to aid in your quest. You stare at each other for hours—you in your favorite Armani sweater that accentuates your eyes, the artichoke resting on your favorite china dish that accentuates its lush green hues.
You take the artichoke on errands—to the dry cleaners, Starbucks, the office. As the days go by, it feels softer to your touch, less thorny; you detect a small sigh of pleasure each time you pick it up. In time you are certain that the artichoke can see into your heart. And so of course, you begin to fall for it. This is about the time the artichoke starts to change. It isn’t as attentive, it drops some of its leaves, is less robust, less attractive. You suspect it isn’t listening to you anymore. It sits sideways on your favorite china dish and sometimes rolls off the table. You come to grips with the fact that this relationship is doomed to fail. Of course, this situation is not new, but you have learned a thing or two from your affair with your artichoke.
You pick it up, stare lovingly at its soft petals, stroke its spiky tips, whisper your undying love and commitment. Your voice is low and sweet, your gaze intense and loving. You tell the artichoke how much it has meant to you, that you were lost and now found. You will never forget the evenings by the fire, the walks on the beach, the dinners by candlelight, the heart emojis. You do this just before you cut out its heart and eat it with one quick bite.
Los Angeles, CA, USA
“I am fascinated with the ways of the human heart. It is fickle and unpredictable and at the same time so easily wounded. As hard as we try to protect ourselves—vow we will never fall in love again—nine times out of ten there we are, in love and out of love and wondering if we will survive. I wrote ARTICHOKE in attempt to shine a little levity on the trials and tribulations of that resilient yet extremely sensitive part of us that is the human heart.”
Wood Reede’s work has been featured in (mac)ro(mic), Cobalt Review, Puerto del Sol, Freshwater Literary Journal, Waving Hands Review, Penmen Review, Umbrella Factory and upcoming in Cardinal Sins. Wood is an avid cyclist and likes nothing better than biking across town in pursuit of the perfect cup of coffee. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and son.