Her Heart is an Ankle by Sara Dobbie

If you were at the café around the corner last night you would have overheard an extraordinary conversation. Not that you would’ve intended on eavesdropping, but considering the close proximity between the tables closest to the front window, you couldn’t have helped it.

When the woman with the ripped stockings stumbled through the doorway, hair dripping from the rain outside, her friend with the red headband got up to embrace her, and to flood the room with loud questions. Did you fall? Yes. Does it hurt? A little. Are you bleeding? Just a scratch.

“You should be more careful,” the woman with the red headband advised, “you could’ve been seriously hurt!’

“Oh, I’ve been falling a lot lately,” the injured girl said, “off the sidewalk, up the stairs, even out of bed once last week.” She arranged herself in the chair that her friend pulled out for her, and the scent of lavender floated through the air.

If you were sitting at the table directly to the left of these women, you’d have found yourself facing blonde locks spilling out from the red headband, but you probably would have shifted, the better to observe the sullen smile of the falling girl.

“Well, you’ve always been clumsy,” said Headband, “but I’m more interested in your love life. Tell me everything.” She leaned closer, anticipating details.

“There’s not much to tell. I don’t really care about falling in love, in fact, I’m not sure if I can.”

“What about that guy you were dating last month?”

The falling girl shook her head. The slope of her neck implied an acceptance of the inevitable. The waitress stepped toward the table to take their order.  Headband requested a mocha latte, the falling girl, a green tea.

“What about my cousin’s friend?” Headband wouldn’t let the matter drop. “He did ask me about you. Remember, we ran into him at the mall? You’d have to be heartless to turn him down.”

“I’m not heartless. But sometimes I think hearts are like bones.”

“How so?”

“Once they break, they don’t work properly anymore. Like, if you break your ankle it will heal, but years later you’ll be walking along and then out of nowhere, feel a stab of pain because you’ve put too much pressure on it. You might even fall down.”

Headband snickered. “Even if it doesn’t work the same, you can still use it, I would hope.”

“Not necessarily. Who can say?”

Headband became exasperated. “Does this mean you’re still pining away over you know who?”

If you were there, with the glare from headlights gliding over the glass of the window, the colors of traffic blurred by the streaming rain, perhaps you would’ve shivered at the fleeting image that ran through your mind, of your own you know who, because almost everyone has one, don’t they? That someone who spoke the words you dreaded most in all the world, so that you lay in the empty bathtub with the shower head spraying down, and you thought for one second you wanted to open your mouth, to let the scalding water fill your lungs.

“Not pining. That was years ago, after all.”

“What was it about him, anyway?”

The falling girl’s head tilted to one side. “One time we were crammed in the back of a car with a bunch of people, and we could see fireworks in the distance. Music was blaring, it was so loud, you know? Everyone was excited, craning their heads to catch a glimpse, but I just wanted to look at him, at his profile. I got close enough to feel the flannel of his shirt against my cheek, and I thought, I’ll never be in this moment again. Never be this happy again. At least not in this way.” She rubbed her temple with the tips of two fingers, like a person experiencing a headache or a great sorrow. “I felt like that every minute I spent with him. Does that make any sense?”

“No!” Headband whined, and then both women burst into laughter, Headband’s high and shrill, the falling girl’s sweet, like a bell.  A man came through the door, waved to Headband, and she stood up to curl herself around him. There were murmurings and apologies, and then Headband left with the man. The falling girl sat alone sipping her tea, gazing out into the wilderness of the night.

If you were there you would’ve waited until the falling girl finished, until she rummaged through her purse for change. You would’ve timed it so you could hold the door open as she hobbled past, a rustle of fabric, of skirt, of trench coat. And as the scent of lavender drifted by, you would’ve uttered a cautionary statement, something to let her know you could be there to catch her, in case she fell again. “Watch your step,” you would’ve said, “its’ slippery.” You would’ve needed to catch your breath as she got into a cab, before you opened your umbrella.

Sara Dobbie is a Canadian writer from Southern Ontario. Her work has appeared at Trampset, Mooky Chick, Spelk, Fiction Kitchen Berlin, Ellipsis Zine and elsewhere. Look for stories forthcoming from Emerge Literary Journal, Change Seven Magazine, Knights Library Magazine and follow her on Twitter @sbdobbie.

Image: unsplash.com