Fiction: What Happened to Our Giant Inflatable Heart

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Read More: A brief interview with Angela Corbett

Manny and I spent a year leading educational tours through the four chambers of the giant inflatable heart she lugged around the country. We went to medical expos and disease fundraisers and science fairs to explain each valve and function; Manny blew the heart up, and I showed her off. We explored the exhibits in our spare time; shopped the booths; read fliers on intestinal wellness, failing livers, the best kinds of latex; collected stethoscope magnets and blood pressure cuffs.

I liked to sit and soak up the gold-red light inside the largest chamber; smooth red walls without plaque or prolapse, like being underwater or falling asleep, which I did. I would sit in the dim redness and drift far away and be woken up by Manny who would say, Wake up.

I’d say, I didn’t know I was asleep.

You definitely were.

Well I didn’t notice.

Go back out front.

I was, I’d say, and would go back out and lead a few more nice people through.

I’d tell them that the heart pumps 2,000 gallons of blood through the body everyday, which would astound them for about five minutes before they went back to forgetting forever. Nobody sits around pondering the miracle of their organs.

Manny knew more about miracles than anyone I knew besides maybe a doctor. She’d watched so many surgery vids she could’ve been one. Manny had real smarts. She navigated us everywhere, handled financials, and had never lost a checkers match.

She’s the best hugger who’s ever hugged me; I fell into oblivion when we hugged.

We hugged like this when I signed up to be a kidney donor. A man with oily red cheeks and a yellow-checkered tie took down my information while I read through the pamphlets at the kidney foundation’s booth and the experience, they said, was like giving birth. It’s terrifying and beautiful like standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon or getting slapped in the face by the closest thing to god.

It would be nice, I said to Manny, to give a kidney to Neil in Buffalo, New York or Wanita Davies in Wisconsin. I hoped that after giving an organ to Neil or Wanita they would think of me as family and send me photos of their children.

They might, Manny said, Or they could move on and forget entirely. But at least you would know you saved someone.

It’s the deed, I said.

Indeed, she said.

So I signed up.

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I was living with my mom and brother Jedd before Manny found me. Jedd had gotten a full ride to a good college for football but his first time on the field, he got hit wrong and went into a coma—he woke up but hasn’t been the same since; he’s mostly physically fine, just mad at the universe.

Before Jedd’s accident, Mom and Dad had already let life’s disappointments steer their lives. Dad felt he could never look good enough and Mom felt like she could never find a high enough paying job and even though she liked the way he looked and he liked her salary, they thought the other secretly hated them. It was the sort of thing that made them lonely and resentful; it made them masturbate in secret and eat their own separate dinners at separate times and take long naps in different rooms through the evenings and into morning. Both believed the other was leaving or had already left and had a whole other life somewhere even though neither was interested in the effort of dating.

Things went on this way for years, then Jedd got knocked in the head, and one day soon after, my father disappeared. Then it was just Jedd, who couldn’t stop yelling, Mom who couldn’t stop crying, and me, who couldn’t stop sleeping—at home, in school, during meetings, at special dinners and holiday parties. There was nothing I truly needed to be awake for. It wasn’t my fault how easily I unlatched from reality. My mother said a latch must have been broken in me somewhere. Jedd insisted we grease it. But it’s never latched completely even after all these years.

The day Manny came through with her heart was the best day of my life up until then.

When I walked up to her, she asked, Would you like to take a tour of the human heart?

And my heart was all I could hear and feel, making the veins in my neck pound against the collar of my shirt. There was something about her—all dark hair and heart-lipped. I looked at Manny and sensed she was loosely latched somewhere too, but in a different way, and I very much wanted a tour of her heart.

That night, She took me to her truck.

You travel the country in this? I asked.

Most of the year, She said.

We climbed through the passenger door because the driver’s was dented shut. We bumped heads settling into the dark. And when we looked up laughing, I loved her.

The next morning I asked where she was going next.

Kansas, She said.

Me too, I said. Can I ride with you and catch a bus to my friend’s place from wherever you’re headed?

She hesitated.

I’ll chip in for gas, I said.

Yeah, She said. Okay.

I did not have plans to be in Kansas; I had plans to be with Manny, who dragged her giant inflatable heart around with a trash bag of clothes in her backseat and photos of beautiful laughing women on her dashboard.

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Out there somewhere, perhaps very vastly dispersed, there are several almost-us’s just wafting about. I was ready go to wherever my kidney was needed and once I shared an organ with someone we would be something like related. We would be like siblings. And maybe we would even vaguely sense one another—we would both know if one was deeply sad or uncontrollably ecstatic. Manny and I had attempted to establish this kind of oneness. We had shared utensils; one of us secretly wore the other’s socks; one of us sometimes breathed in synchrony with the other while she slept; one of us loved the other much more, but was willing to live with it just to be there.

My kidney coordinator, Christopher, would call when he found someone with a compatible blood type, then I’d get a round of tests and send the results off. It would be many rounds of tests before I gave a kidney; it could have been years of rounds, but it wasn’t.

I got my first call two months after joining the list. Manny and I were in Denver. It was snowing and the heart was cold inside. We had to sleep in the truck so that Manny could turn it on and blast the heat for a few minutes every few hours. It was hard to hold each other in the truck without tangling uncomfortably.

Hold me, I’d say, and Manny would twist an arm around my shoulders, shivering.

In the morning, I went for x-rays and blood tests and had the results sent to Maria in Jupiter, Florida. I’ve always wanted family in Florida, I told Manny, and she agreed. So we went to Florida where I did more tests and stayed very well hydrated and prepared to trade my kidney for a sister—it was an exciting few days. Strangers were very proud of me. They called me brave and kind. They looked at me tenderly as if I were an adorable, well-behaved child.

Maria and I were 83% compatible. This meant her body would have accepted my kidney with open loving arms, but Maria died before she could receive it. The loss was devastating and Florida was lonely without her. Manny and I had come just for her so we weren’t making any money and had been eating the gas station chicken that gave us stomachaches, but we stayed for the funeral and my almost-family was the most beautiful family I’d ever seen. Maria and I had even looked alike; she was stunningly beautiful and was going to law school. I would have liked to see her beat Manny at checkers.

Maria’s family hugged me even though they didn’t know me; they thanked me for almost saving her. They fed Manny and me and gave us tissues when we cried but there was nothing I could do for them; no one else in my almost-family needed a kidney, although they did appreciate the offer and sent me and Manny off with cake.

Then we left for Nebraska to be at a heart disease mini-marathon.

It was just one of those things.

Manny said it needed to be left up to the universe.

But what did Manny know about the universe? She had not made out with me at all during my distress. She had absently stroked my thigh and hugged me once while sitting at a rest area park bench but she had not kissed me deeply anywhere in what felt like forever and all the while I had been trying to lure her close.

I laid sensually alone on the couch; I wore the tightest pants possible; I made dessert and ate it with her almost every night.

When we first got together Manny was an exceptional lover; she was audacious; she would kiss my thighs for a very long time and touch every part of my body; there used to be hours and hours of touching and whispering and pretending to be adventurous people. Now it was hard even to have a meaningful spooning.

The only place I felt happy was inside the heart. It put me into a kind of trance. I would look up at the ceiling and hear my heart’s thudding become the heart’s thudding and my whole body would start to tingle. Then I’d wake up to Manny shaking me.

You can’t sleep in here, She’d say.

This room is hypnotizing, I’d mumble.

Take more air breaks.

I do, I’d say. I take a lot.

The heart reconnected me to my fetal state, to a place of soft red light and no loneliness.

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Abraham.

It seemed right to give my kidney a name. Soon he would leave my body and start a new life on his own. He would be in a different place with different sounds and shades of purple-pink. This was a large undertaking for an organ.

That’s when I talked to Helen for the first time on the phone. She asked the kidney foundation to ask me if she could talk to me and I told them to tell her yes, so she called on a Saturday and kept calling every night after to ask how Abe and I were doing. Helen lived in New Orleans, so that’s where Manny and I headed next. Abe and Helen were an 86% match. They would enjoy each other’s company very much.

Even though Helen was dying of kidney failure, she was the happiest person I’d ever met. She had a saying for everything that happened, like stars can’t shine without the darkness, or everyday is a second chance. She was a very grateful person and said I was proof of angels and higher power; I was proof that good could triumph over evil; nothing could get that bad as long as Abe and I were there.

After all of this I knew I was going to be a different person. A lifesaver. There was going to be nothing I couldn’t do. It would be like having a special superhuman power.

The day of the surgeries, Manny gave me the tiny locket of her father’s ashes she wore around her neck. She wanted to say she loved me, but didn’t. I understood. I clutched the locket and was happy.

Then I got to meet Helen in person. Everyone was there—Manny and the transplant team, a surgeon and anesthesiologist and the counselor who’d asked about my feelings, and my kidney transplant coordinator, Christopher. They all watched as Helen and I gently squished our bodies together in our crinkly paper gowns and cried.

Thank you, she said.

You’re welcome, I said.

I went first.

Goodbye Abe, I said.

They cut out my kidney and put it in a metal bowl and gave it to Helen.

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When Helen and I woke up we were sisters and I was her mother and we were lovers. We were two people suddenly madly blindly captivated with each other. We had created life together; not a brand new baby, but a brand new Helen and a brand new me and it felt incredible. We opened our eyes sore and smiling. We let our hands fall off our hospital beds and find one another.

When you believe, you receive, Helen said, and she was right.

Helen and I were awake together for a full three hours before Manny came to the hospital. When she got there, I showed her the flowers Helen had gotten me. I was embarrassed that Manny didn’t get flowers for Helen or me. After surgery, loved ones were supposed to arrange congratulatory flowers and be there when the patient(s) woke up. Helen had six bouquets and all but one were roses; this proved that many people loved her. I loved her and I didn’t even know her. When I was a kid I often felt an untraceable loneliness for no reason; a feeling that something was missing, and I knew in that moment that the something had been Helen.

One night in the hospital, we stayed up talking until we both pretended to fall asleep. Helen was staring up at the ceiling and I was lying on my good side looking at the wall. Neither of us wanted to move or breathe loudly because we didn’t want the moment to end. The hospital air was sweet-smelling that night and it rarely is; the nurses were all in excellent moods and they rarely are. Everyone felt what was happening. Then Helen climbed out of her bed and came the three steps over to mine while I stayed pretend-sleeping. All the machine lights glowed softly. She raised the covers and crawled into bed beside me and I turned towards her so we could lift each other’s gowns and kiss each other’s mouths and stitches.

We stayed together in the hospital the first week while doctors kept tabs on our recovery and Helen’s health and Abe’s function. It was not surprising that Abe fit so nicely inside Helen. 86% was a lot of sameness; we liked many of the same television shows, we were both right handed, we both had always wanted to learn to play the saxophone. We marveled.

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I liked it in the hospital where someone came into my room every morning and asked how I was feeling, brought me three meals a day, and kept track of my bowel movements. Everything was taken care of and Helen was there. It would take her body a long time to adjust to Abe; she was on a dozen medications and got blood tests almost everyday. It had already been a whole week since the surgery and I could do most things apart from lifting over twenty-five pounds or bouncing on a trampoline or taking a spirited jog, none of which I would normally do anyway.

All I wanted to do was stare at Helen while she told me the story of her entire life. I wanted to know about her hometown, her childhood, her family, her friends—but whenever she started explaining some fascinating facet of her life, like how she spent two years in Prague and had a cancer-curing-Kimchi-making Korean great grandmother, Manny would butt in with something boring. The more questions I asked Helen, the more Manny talked. Then after Helen and I got our lunch trays, and I had traded her my fruit cup for her pudding, Manny announced that she booked the heart in Washington in three days.

I hadn’t even considered leaving and Helen said she didn’t know what she would do without me. She hugged me and her eyes became significantly wetter. Emotions circled. Then she said if life had taught her anything it’s that, You can’t reach what’s in front of you if you don’t let go of what’s behind you.

She wanted to travel the country with me and Manny; it had been her dying wish. And since she wasn’t dying anymore she felt compelled to achieve her dreams. She could do anything now. We could do anything.

That Sunday, when Manny arrived to take us to Washington, Helen and I were ready with our bags packed. The doctors didn’t think Helen should leave, but Helen said she felt more than ready; she said doctors were always trying to make you believe you were sicker than you really were. We were new and nothing was going to slow us down.

Manny agreed with the doctors and told me secretly that she didn’t feel right taking Helen away from the hospital so soon after she’d received a transplant.

I told Manny that Helen and I felt great. Abe was great. I felt it.

I patted the spot on my side where he used to be.

Manny wanted to argue, but I looked into her eyes and said, Helen is my sister. And that was that.

Helen and I filled out our discharge paperwork and piled into the truck with Manny.

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We were walking miracles. Helen and I didn’t expect so many people to want to hear our story, but they did; they came from all over. They came in groups and formed hugging circles around us and made long lines to snap photos of us holding their babies; they came to tell us about their lives and to get permission to do whatever it was they felt they needed to do and they cried, they sobbed in our arms while we told them they were good enough and we were all good enough in that moment.

I was just days from dying, Helen would start.

When that woman, She’d point at me, That very special lady, came into my life and saved me.

Together, we told our story, my story: from small town to saving a stranger, who became my sister, who changed my life.

I talked to crowds. I opened up. I gave people my full attention while they cried; I sent calming signals; I would nod and make my eyes say to theirs ‘I’m listening’ and make a little friction on their shoulder with my hand that said ‘I care very much’. People liked these things, all kinds of people—mothers and fathers, pastors and senators, addicts and sober people, businessmen, teachers, inmates, doctors, farmers, zookeepers, custodians, construction workers, radio and tv personalities. We led calming circles inside the largest chamber of the heart; we would talk everyone into a trance and all relax so completely that the bad things in our lives fell away like hair off a shaved head, then we’d all heal each other with our love.

Even Manny enjoyed my newness. She’d started kissing me again for the first time in a long time. Whenever we were alone she would climb on top of me and start kissing and touching away all over. She smelled good and felt nice so would lie there and let her make love to me and stay afterwards awhile to let her hold the locket of her father that rested between my breasts.

It seemed like it was easy to love now that Helen and I had saved each other. We made love and spread love and people loved love; they loved it so much that some of them didn’t want to leave. Bernardo was our first. We found him in Nevada. He said we were the most wonderful people he’d ever met; he had always dreamed of meeting people as wonderful as us and couldn’t go on living life as usual having finally found us, so when we left for Indiana Bernardo came with. The truck was crowded with four different people and their belongings crammed in the cab, but we were family.

Bernardo sat by the passenger door and hung his feet out the open window. He didn’t wear shoes. He needed his bare skin to touch the earth as much as possible to stay rooted in this reality. He told us all the time about his recurring nightmare in which his foot suddenly broke off while he was walking, just snapped off like he was made of plastic. He hadn’t had this dream in a long time, he said, but thought about it sometimes still.

Helen sat between Bernardo and me. Manny drove. Every morning, when everyone rolled awake on each others’ shoulders, we shared our dreams.

Last night, Bernardo said, I dreamt my face was inside out and there was no fixing it.

I dreamt I was swimming beneath New York City, Helen said.

In my dreams, I talked to Abe through Helen’s side and he talked back and kicked out like a fetus; or sometimes he was giant and pulsing or just a tiny wriggling creature in my hand with a deep voice.

Manny dreamt of home.

Everywhere we went, strangers showered us with love. We cleansed them, and they donated to our search for serenity—a meal, a place to stay, gas in our truck. Bernardo loved meeting new people and encouraged them to travel with us.

I was living in the dark, he told them, And now everything is illuminated.

He said, You’ve found your family. He said, We can make things better together.

Bernardo was calm and persuasive. He had kind cheekbones. It wasn’t long before people started following us from city to city in their cars.

Helen was pure sunshine to everyone we ever met, except Manny, and no one knew why. Whenever Manny sang along with a song that came on the radio, Helen changed stations; when Manny was having a bad day, Helen didn’t coax her into a positive space; she just said Manny could be such a drag; and they never agreed on what to eat. Helen had started to control more of the financials. She passed collection baskets around during our gatherings and kept all the money in a secret place.

Manny would complain, We barely teach anyone about their hearts anymore.

Helen said the heart was our healing space, which was better than a medical exhibit, because we taught people deeper truths about their hearts—spiritual truths.

Bernardo agreed.

I agreed.

I hugged Manny and said, Our heart is still important.

It was a symbol of our message. And I still fell asleep every time I went inside it, like a baby in a car.

Helen said the heart was just a place, a room with red plastic walls—we could do what we did anywhere.

I was taken aback that she didn’t care for the heart like me and Manny did; it was more than a place; I’d shared beautiful moments with both Manny and Helen inside it’s chambers; it might have had plaque-hardened arteries and inflammation, but it was ours and I wanted to keep it, even if our family had outgrown it. So what if there were too many people to host gatherings inside the heart; we gathered around it. Helen and I spoke into megaphones in front of its dark-throated entrance while Manny wandered off to get coffee or take a walk.

Sometimes after we were done, Manny managed to persuade a few stragglers to follow her into the heart so she could teach them about its valves and functions. Bernardo took the tour every time, even when no one else stayed for it. Manny’s passion for the heart exhilarated him.

Afterwards, he would go out bars and dance clubs with the new people he’d met at our gathering; he stayed out all night into the morning and somehow found his way back in the early afternoon just as we were packed and ready to move on to the next city. He was even more affectionate than usual when drunk. He sometimes made us stop the truck just to get out on the side of the road and hug.

Thank you, He’d say, I needed to feel love.

A few times, he had us pull off the road in the desert or deep in the mountains. He stripped down and lay face down on the ground, fully connected with the earth like I’ve seen only once before, with Jedd; his boy’s body tossed up; the way his head snapped back; his body jerking and dropping to the ground as we watched, arms flung out as if to catch him.

I thought Jedd had left; his soul escaped somewhere off into the universe, to heaven or deep in the ocean or floating through the clouds like a loose balloon, and maybe it did for those two weeks when he wouldn’t wake up, but it came back.

Bernardo’s body seized in the dirt. His ass and thighs shook. We were somewhere near Nashville. Some of us watched. Some of us wandered off into the woods. I wanted to connect with something too so I undressed and lay down. The ground was wet and cold; it was uncomfortable and exhilarating. I smelled leaves and dirt, the trees, the fog. I settled into the earth. Then Helen stripped and laid down too. People came out of the woods tossing their clothing behind them; they got out of their cars and put their faces to the ground.

We all became Jedd.

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Later, Helen and I attempted reading each other’s thoughts. We thought it sometimes worked, but we were so honest and open with each other about everything that after a half hour of straining our minds and souls to open a pathway between our brains, we determined it wasn’t necessary.

Then Helen nosied me. And I nosied back—nosie is what we called it when we kissed with the tips of our noses—and Manny watched.

The more people that came, the more Helen and I loved each other, and the more that Helen and I loved each other, the more Manny saw.

Before Helen, Manny and I were our own little boat in the sea and before Manny I was floating lonely in a lake. Now, I am the ocean and Helen is the Sky—I told Helen this one night after we’d made love and she did not say, Thank you, that was beautiful. She did not sigh in admiration. She rolled her eyes. Helen had never rolled her eyes at anyone, aside from Manny.

What’s wrong? I asked.

Helen said she didn’t want Manny to drive the truck anymore. She and Bernardo wanted a bus because of the line of cars that trailed behind us—because of Kendra from Rhode Island and Ted from New Jersey and Phil from Pennsylvania and Cynthia from Arizona and Yvonne from North Carolina. Our new family. Helen was yelling and I didn’t know why. She shook slightly; her neck appeared thin and strained.

Once she’d stopped shouting long enough for me to agree with her she softened and was nice again.

She smiled and said, I know I can always count on you to be my light.

We met in the heart that night and made love ferociously; broke skin with our teeth, dug in our nails; tightened our hands around each others’ throats; spit and hissed.

I talked to Abe through Helen’s side; I put my hands against him through her skin.

I’m here, I reminded him.

I started to tell him how thankful I was that he saved one of the loves of my life, but Helen was tired, so I stopped and gathered my things and crept back to the truck.

The windows were fogged. Manny slept inside. I climbed into the passenger seat and leaned over to lay my head in her lap.

In the morning I called a family meeting, and we told Manny we wanted a bus.

Why? She asked.

For our followers.

They’re strangers, she said.

Shame on you, Helen said, They’re family. We’re all family.

How are we going to get a bus? Manny asked.

Helen looked at me.

We’d have to trade in the truck, I said.

Manny laughed but she was not laughing.

My truck? She said.

Don’t you want to do share your happiness? Helen asked. For the greater good?

It was the same thing she said at the end of our gatherings as the collection buckets circled.

Why don’t you buy a bus? Manny said.

Who feeds us? Helen demanded. Who puts gas in the truck? Who clothes us? Who leads us? Who—

Bernardo had a very soothing voice. He was the only one breathing normally.

Please, he said.

There was nothing Manny could do. She was outvoted, everyone else to one.

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As a kid I always wanted a big family; a life without loneliness. Jedd would have probably rather been an only child. And my parents would have not had children at all, or maybe even never met each other.

Surrounded by people who loved me I suddenly felt strangely about the trajectory of my life; petrified by its immensity. Where would I go now, from the apex of my existence? Everything was finally something more.

The next time Manny and I made love was in a hotel room in Amarillo, Texas. We were there shopping for a bus and Helen had gotten the whole family free rooms by telling the concierge that everyone in our group was facing a life threatening illness. We were four to a room. Bernardo and Helen had gone out to lead a spiritual cleanse with a few others. The rest were back in the hotel, celebrating their new life, making love and spreading love.

When Manny unbuttoned my shirt, she noticed her father’s ashes had gone missing. And I only noticed because she did.

Where’d he go? She asked.

I took him off to shower, I said, but knew her necklace must have fallen off somewhere, and I didn’t know when.

I looked for it everywhere and couldn’t find it; it wasn’t in my bag or the heart; and Helen said she’d never seen it. I searched the truck, deep in its cushions, underneath the seats, in the forgotten pockets and crevices a million times before we handed it over for a bus with blue velvety seats and plenty of overhead storage.

Helen was in love with the bus. The first time she sat inside, she cried, and kept telling us, Life is full of miracles.

That day, in Amarillo, Texas, eight people left their cars in an abandoned lot; they left their monotonous jobs, the remaining pieces of their families, their calcified coffee makers, their brown lawns, their dusty cabinet corners and stained carpets and warm beds, and joined our family for good.

Everybody settled into the bus, talking excitedly. They shined with the full embrace of their new lives and siblings.

I smiled down at all of them.

Bernardo sat dazed beside me, staring out the window with his forehead against the glass. His feet were dirty.

Overwhelmed by the excitement? I asked.

He rolled his face towards me.

I had that dream again, He said, My foot. It just broke off.

He snapped his fingers.

It was just a fluke, I said, and he nodded.

Helen dreamt of finding a kingdom at the end of a rainbow.

Manny said she dreamt of getting stabbed in the heart.

She stared at me.

Then everyone else shared their dreams: I got my feet stuck together; My dead brother told me to find the truth; I laid an egg full of sand; My ex wife jumped off the Eiffel Tower, and I watched; My head was twice its size; I sailed the Pacific in a bucket.

Manny sat in the back of the bus, leaning on her deflated heart in the seat next to her. The air pump and battery box were crammed beneath her feet; she rested her head on her knees. I made my way to the back and sat in the seat across the aisle from hers.

I said, This might take some getting used to.

I smiled, but she didn’t look up.

Where’s my necklace? She asked.

Who knew where it was? Minnesota. Nebraska. Maine. North Dakota. Oklahoma. Rhode Island. It could have been anywhere, but I told Manny I had it.

It’s at the bottom of my bag, I said. I’ll dig it out for you later—once everyone has settled in.

I kissed her forehead.

A few nights later, after making love to me, Manny suddenly sobbed against my chest, then left without a word. The next day when I asked if she was okay, she said she knew her father was gone forever.

I’ll find him, I assured her.

Okay, She said, but told me she knew she never should have trusted me with something so special.

Over the next few days, I apologized to emptiness. Manny didn’t look at me or listen. She bought headphones and kept them on at all times. She did not participate in our morning dream sharing and no one sat in the backseat next to hers and she did not get out of the bus in the middle of nature to strip down and lay against mother earth.

We stopped using the heart all together.

Manny preferred to sleep against it inside the bus while everyone else got off and gathered in the woods.

Helen drove and planned our routes. She made all the decisions now. Our brothers and sisters called her Mother. She had dizzy spells brought on by intense rushes of joy; she was exhausted from traveling but ecstatic, she said.

I talked to Abe when I could.

Hello, Abe, I’d say. It’s your old body talking.

I didn’t want him to think he’d been forgotten.

Helen was sweet as pie to everyone all of the time, except me and Manny and Bernardo. She got upset if not enough people showed up at a gathering, or if there wasn’t enough money in the collection baskets. She told me and Bernardo to tell people that the easiest way to join the family was to give something back to the family. She said, a life of light is a life of selflessness.  She said, unfortunately spiritual wholeness can be expensive.

Helen had developed a yellowish skin-hue that made me feel queasy in certain light. She said she felt fine.

Sometimes I wasn’t sure what exactly we were giving. Sometimes Helen called me over to a crying person and asked me to hold them with her, so I wrapped my arms around them and we all held each other tightly, sweaty, snotty and huddled for what seemed like along time since we were strangers but in reality was less than a minute until we gradually unglued and held hands.

You’re cured, Helen would say.

Then everyone would resume crying, but in a different way, a nice-feeling way. Happy tears.

Manny said it was awful. She tried to tell people to go back to their doctors and keep taking their medications, but it was too late. They believed.

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In Wyoming, Manny got off the bus and wouldn’t get back on. […]


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Angela Corbett is from Ohio. Her short story, “Grievers” won the 2015 Sonora Review fiction contest judged by Stuart Dybek and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She has her my MFA in Fiction from California State University, Fresno where she worked as Online Managing Editor for the Normal School. Someday, she’d like to run away from all this and go to clown school.

Read More: A brief interview with Angela Corbett