“Are you expecting a kindergarten class?”
I drop my beyond-ripe gym bag on the floor next to the full-body mirror in the hall. Fat, waiting expectantly in her plastic eyeglasses, sits straighter upon my entrance. She perches on the coffee table amongst a throng of construction paper, felt-tip pens, paint, glue sticks, coloured pipe cleaners and white out. She says nothing, just gives me the ‘trust me’ look of a politician in a sweater vest. Her eyes follow me as I disappear into the kitchen and come back with a Corona in hand.
“Seriously, Fat. Is it time for back-to-school shopping already? What’s going on with this stuff?”
I kneel on the ground beside the coffee table and set my beer down in a small area of table not occupied by craft supplies. My idle hands can’t help themselves and I reach over and grab the pipe cleaners. I wind a yellow and blue one together, with no idea of what will become of it.
“No.” Fat snaps when she sees my hands sculpting the wire aimlessly. “That’s not what this stuff is for, Boss.”
I drop the pipe cleaners instantly; they hit the edge of the table and fall to the floor in near-silence. I lift my hands in the air to show I’m at her mercy.
“You’re absolutely right. Clearly these are for the séance you’re hosting this evening. Give the spirits my apologies for disrupting their arts and crafts table.”
“No,” Fat repeats. “I want you to construct a physical representation of your heart.” Fat’s head nods at all the art supplies around her paws. “It’s an exercise in perception. Show me what you think yours looks like.”
I stare, open-mouthed at the art supplies, awaiting further instruction.
The feline’s tail sweeps over the craft materials, knocking the bottle of white out on its side. Her eyes squint at me from behind the wire frames of her spectacles. She sighs with impatience, “You can start now.”
“Oh, well…” I scan the art goods and grab the scissors and a piece of blue construction paper. For some reason, I think this is a timed event and start cutting the shape of a heart as quickly as possible.
I’m so engrossed in the process, I don’t even acknowledge Fat’s stare.
“You clearly were not emo as a youth.”
I look up just as I finish cutting the shape of a lopsided heart from the paper. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
The feline stares as though it’s the most obvious thing in the world. “You’re not good at cutting.”
I don’t know how to respond so I just ignore her comment and focus instead on piercing and cutting several holes of various sizes into my paper heart. Upon completion of the round holes, I set the scissors and lean away from my art project.
“You think your heart looks like Swiss cheese?” Fat appears repulsed by my effort and stares at the barely held-together heart.
“Swiss chee…” My head lops to the side and I have to admit, yes, it does look like that. Unintentionally, of course.
“You think there’s a person out there who wants a heart that looks like that? This isn’t a heart you give to somebody.” Fat judges before she even hears my explanation.
“I have no intention of giving my heart to any one person.”
Fat gives me a look that can’t commit to being either pity or misunderstanding. It’s a face between differing states.
“The holes, Fat. I could never give anybody my entire heart because I’ve already given pieces of it to other people.” I point to a hole, “My folks have this part.” I point to another hole, “Bestie’s.” I point out a few more, “Chelsea’s. My niece. Nephew.” I list off a few more missing parts of my heart that have been given away. “Kind of selfish to get these parts of my heart back just so I can give my whole heart to a single person. I like it better like this. I like having a broken heart. More pieces to give to others for safe keeping.”
Fat sits in silence. Her face twists in what looks to be a pained expression.
“Fat? What’s wrong?”
Fat’s paw bats a few of the felt pens sheepishly and we both watch them fall off the table. “I was expecting to mock your ugly heart and tell you about how nobody wants something so hideous. It is hideous, by the way. But then you go and say something like that and I haven’t prepared any supportive comments.”