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Clockwork heart

Last updated on October 23, 2018

I have a clock work heart.

In the morning when I wake up, all the gears tick, spin and whirr. They turn without protest as I swing my feet out of bed and go about my morning routine. Slow and steady, spokes touch spokes, turning the great machine that is my body and brain into a slide-show of normality.

I wash my face.
(That looks like my mother’s if she were fat.)
I brush my teeth.
(That are crooked like hers but not like hers.)
I brush my hair.
(That darkened from a daisy-blond, like my mothers. That is thinning as I age. Like my mothers.)

I put on clothes if I need to go out or I just put on clean pajamas to wander about the house. Sometimes I do things I normally do with the sense that I am forgetting something hovering behind my shoulder at all times. When I bend down to get the egg nog from the fridge. When I go to wipe down a counter. When I sweep up dust from the floor I think–What did I forget? What was I doing? What am I missing? 

And like a child about to cross the street I’ll be in the middle of doing my every-day things when I stop to look both ways, thinking there’s something I should be doing.

I look at my christmas tree.
I lay in bed at night and try not to wake Shawn up as I stare at the christmas lights in our bed room window and think how dull. How awful. 

Inside my heart the pieces wind down as the clock keeps ticking. Memories become slug-thick, crude oil that trickle down into all the once-working pieces until I can feel it struggle. The wheels are slowing down. My mother sitting, bored, in a car waiting for my father. I act the idiot just to entertain her and get her to laugh. It works. Ten o’clock at night. Christmas eve. The spokes are slipping against once another in the mess of slick-despair. Two years ago. My mother takes me out one night to the casino. She keeps spending money. She keeps saying she has a good feeling about this machine or that. More money. Soon she’s spent so much that I dread us coming home. We are so far in disbelief at how much money she’s lost we’re laughing out heads off, hooting and howling, cackling and giggling the whole way home from Calgary to Airdrie. On the door step, my mother laughs so hard she cries at the same time. She has to lean on the door so as not to fall down. I laugh with her because there’s nothing more in my life I loved more than my mother, happy. It’s hard for my heart to keep working. It keeps skipping, slipping, the wheels are choking on flecks of dirt that bind delicate mechanics. I’m not looking at the tinsel on my walls and I refuse to turn around and look at my tree. I think about all the places I promised I’d take her when she visited me here in Florida. I think about all the food she’d never eat, the things I wanted to show her she’d never see…I think about Disney. She’d always dreamed of seeing disney. She never will, now. 

My heart winds down to a stop, all the gears jumble up on top of one another squeezing against my lungs. Springs, strings, screws and broken childhood dreams pile up on one another; cars in the snow on the highway that don’t know when to put their brakes on. It grows and grows and grows until it feels just like an angry hand reaches in to squeeze all the happiness out.

It feels just like dying.
Like someone you love, has died.

I have a clock work heart. During the day, its gears whirrr and spin, carrying me through the mundane with what feels like normal.

At night, it stops, and I am small and lost. There is no lullaby to sooth it. The woman who once sang me songs in the terror of my night is gone. I hear only the sound of wheels slowing to silence.

Darlene Mae Noseworthy
April 2nd, 1956 – December 11th, 2011
My Mother. 


Published inPersonal