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ENTER HEIDI
August 20, 2004
 
How does it look? I ask Q. He has just unveiled my incision.

Well, it's sort of like an upside-down smile. Hi, there! He waves at the discolored scar under which my new pacemaker nestles. The appliance makes no response.

Her name's Heidi, I say.

Why Heidi? he asks.

Beats me. That's the name she gave when she arrived. I think it's a pun - Heidi, hiding, you know?

Well, it's not a very good pun.

Yeah. I don't know that Heidi's all that smart.

But then, she wasn't hired for her sense of humor. She has one task in life. Here is what she does for a living: she sits in my chest and uses her two long tails of flexible wire to sense the rate of contraction in two different parts of my heart. If one of them slows down too much, she tells it to speed up, and sends along a little electric shock for added emphasis. In a nice way.

I am a little afraid of her tails -- afraid they will come loose, that I will forget and rip them out with a sudden movement. This is an odd feeling; I'm not afraid of much. But I imagine people with machines inplanted in their bodies always have such imaginings at first, a fearful nod to the enormity of what has happened, a dark muttering beneath the matter-of-fact casualness with which modern people know we must greet the incursions of technology into our lives. Into our very bodies, for heaven's sake. It's no big deal, we say airily. Something inside us begs to differ: It's a big deal.

Sometimes I feel my heart pound, hard enough that I can see the lace on my nightgown tremble. That's Heidi, insisting that my pulse not go below 60 beats a minute. I don't know what she's like when she reaches the upper limit of her veto power: she won't let it go above 132, either. I guess won't know what that's like until I go back to the gym in a month.

One-handed typing. One-handed hugs. Awkward one-handed dressing -- trapped half in and half out of my dress, I had to summon Q to extricate me. The topology of why I could get into it but not out of it remains a mystery.

Two million people in the world have these things. Recently, my doctor put one in a 93-year-old. He's a new man. Maybe I'm a new woman. At my daughter's wedding, I danced half a dance before needing to sit down. I sat in a chair and watched everyone on the dance floor: my beautiful daughter dancing, her beautiful sister and her beautiful daughters, all the happy people dancing while I sat, happy, too, but weak. Perhaps I will be a new woman at the next one.

Being weak didn't seriously invade my happiness at the wedding; love was more than a match for so insignificant a thing. I loved sitting in a chair and watching. I would rather be weak and here than not here at all. Even life under a cloud is still life, still gift, still full of something good: if not of the good one might like, full of something else.

But to be strong instead -- that would be better. I'll take it if I can get it.
Copyright © 2018 Barbara Crafton
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