That Piece Of My Heart
In high school, he wore a blue jeans jacket frayed and faded to white. His hair was long enough to flirt with his shirt collar, risqué in a small town. The socially acceptable stuck ups called him “hippie” but never to his face. They knew better – Ike (named for President Eisenhower) moved with the careless grace of a big cat and could be just as deadly.
We were both outlanders, strangers from outside the provincial realms of Newton County. That was our common bond, the tie that brought us together and made us friends. Rebels at heart, we were different from the common herd and from one another. Enough strands of common thread existed to pull us into the eye of the needle together.
My first real kiss came from Ike, the one where I realized that I was female and he was male. I was thirteen, so young that I had no idea what I was doing. We
were buddies until the day that a single strand of my hair fell into my face and he lifted his hand to brush it aside.
Side by side in math class, our world narrowed into that moment to a small sphere. Something like electricity jumped from his hand to my face and traveled through me as his fingers caressed the curve of my cheek. Without thought, by some ancient instinct I reached out to him and touched him. Like iron filings drawn to a magnetic we moved together, heads touching and he put his lips over mine.
I was lost and I was found. The classroom around me faded into fantasy as I let him kiss me. Like Sleeping Beauty, I felt awakened although Ike was no prince, just a ragged, rough teenager with too many dreams and not enough money to find them.
I surfaced to find the class united in laughter at Ike and me. I blushed and he got mad. His angry response earned him a trip to the principal’s office where he was well known. My shame and embarrassment were my penance but the cost was greater.
Ike avoided me for weeks but after the fuss died down, after our peers forgot, our friendship was restored. Over the next four years we smoked many a forbidden cigarette together, passing the smoke back and forth with camaraderie. We never had a formal date, not the kind where he came to the house and picked me up before my parents’ eyes. There were football games, however, where we huddled together against the crisp November cold or field trips where we shared a single bus seat. A few dances in dim rooms draped with colored streamers where we hugged and swayed to the music were the most intimate moments we shared after that kiss.
He met the girl he would marry during our senior year but our paths had already diverged in different directions. I went away to college and he joined Life. And in time I married, too.
Three children later, my husband came home to tell me about his new co-worker. It was Ike. He was straight and he had a new lady in his life, this time perhaps the right one. The other guys at the plant couldn’t believe they were friends, my man and my old friend, especially after they joked that they’d kissed the same woman. Me. Or that Ike told my husband that he still loved me, had always loved me.
I believe that he does.
We used to listen to Janis Joplin scream her rage, her ,pain, her heart. Take it, she sang, take another little piece of my heart now, baby. .
They all take a little piece of your heart, the ones you let within your sacred circle, in that inner sanctum. Those little pieces make up a cosmic soul, all parts of the whole, and all part of me. Mine are scattered out across the world, some in the keeping of people I’d rather not think about.
Ike has a piece of my heart and he carries it. I’ve always loved her, he told my husband last year and he does. I read it in his eyes when he looked at me. But he loves this woman more and he should.