The Beat Goes On

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Hands are one of the first things I see when meeting someone. I make mental note of the way they shake, the way they touch me, how they hold me. Whether a person acts consciously or unconsciously with their emotion, their mood, their response; I sense it. Tell me something I don’t know about you, I’m saying. It’s silent this time; I’ll say it out loud eventually. More than once. It’s a favorite question either way, but the silent form? Listening and learning them through touch? That’s when it feels as if I am stealing my first glance at their heart.

The heart; wow. Such a truly stunning organ. It’s complex. Powerful. Unpredictable. On average, it gives us approximately 2.5 billion beats to live the hell out of it. 2.5 billion beats. A lifetime. When you break it down, that’s about 100,000 beats per day or 35 million beats per year… all thanks to an organ that it the size of two fists.

My Yiayia and Papouli did not speak English when they came to this country. Dad didn’t either. He learned once be began American school. Six more months. 17.5 million beats. He was fluent. 2,800,000,000 until now. The beat is beginning to slow. Will never be ready when it stops.

Papouli opened a grocery store; learned bits and pieces over the years. Cancer; a rare sarcoma. 1.5 years. 52,000,000 additional beats. Then he slept. I don’t have any answers. Only questions.

Yiayia learned four words. Nothing to most of us. So much for her. Banana, Mummy, Mummy’s first name, and Jay. She was proud. Four English words. A two-year old for a teacher. It took nearly a lifetime. 87 years. 3,080,000,000 beats. I wish she’d had more. Wish I could remember her.

05 February, 2011. It was a Saturday, a little after 1:00pm. Snowy and perfect. Advanced terrain, experienced skiers only. Mogul skiing/jumping. I’d done it countless times. There was an accident.

Fragments have been archived; choosing the mogul, hitting the jump. My form was off; realized it immediately. Airborne. Falling. Impact. Lift your head. Your mum is just ahead. Call her. No, don’t worry her. Just get up. My mouth wouldn’t move. Nothing would move. White. Black. White. Black. Red. Sounds fading. It hurt. Pain in my shoulder; in my head. Yet an underlying sense of peace; never far from the surface. It only got stronger. Eventually, I stopped thinking. Held on as long as I could. Too exhausted. No fear. It would be okay. Just let go. White. White. White.

Slowly fade to black.

910,000,000 beats.

Then it was quiet.

I don’t remember coming back. I’ve been told approximately how long it took, but I can’t tell you what was said. I’m sorry. I don’t remember that either. I do remember him; the quick-acting ski patrol man. Lincoln. I’ve never forgotten his voice or the way it felt to squeeze his hand. I’ll never forget his name.

Severe concussion. Amnesia. Permanent memory loss. Ongoing sensory issues. More going on behind the scenes than anyone ever realized.

Nearly 2 years. A long road to recovery. Not a day passes without my being thankful for the extra time. 55,000,000 additional beats.

Now hold your hands out in front of you. Study them; this place where heart and brain connect. What would they tell me when we touched? Mine are large for a woman; man hands, I’ve called them, flashing a quick, self-deprecating smile. They’re delicate, smooth and largely unblemished; dancer’s hands, an ex once said. Long, slender fingers end in dark plum-polished nails; they would be anatomically perfect were it not for index and middle fingers that curve out ever so slightly. I am not a touchy feel-y kind of person unless we’re emotionally close. If you’re close, a part of my inner circle, I don’t know how withhold affection. I touch you with tenderness, care, humour… too much at times. I can’t help it; 55,000,000 beats later and it just happens. I can only wear it —the affection, the tenderness, the empathy, the humour, my experiences, my heart… naked. Just me, raw and real.

Hands. Heart. Brain. Forever tangled and entwined in the hope that when my music, my beat stops, I’ll have left you with more answers than questions.

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