My Broken Heart

My eyes snap open. The room is dark. I’m disoriented. Muffled beeping and soft humming sounds. The hospital.

I remember.

Had the nurse just come in to check my vitals? I wasn’t sure. I had learned in the few days I had been in the cardiac unit that the night nurses seemed to wait until I was asleep to check my blood pressure and temperature. One nurse came in during the night and turned on the bathroom light. The brightness hurt my eyes. I squinted at her. She was staring at me.

“Are you awake?”

“I am.” I tried to sound like it. She was doing her best–making sure my heart didn’t stop. The least I could do is be kind.

Now, something woke me. I couldn’t see a nurse anywhere. I sat up in bed. My head spun. I swung my feet over the edge of the bed and pulled the oxygen monitor off my finger. I gathered the EKG cables, put the wireless transmitter in my hospital-gown-chest-pocket and let my feet touch the cold tile floor. The coolness cleared my head.


IMG_4008_3am_Cardiac UnitI stood up. The room swayed around me, then stabilized. I pulled the drape back and looked out into the ward. The nurses station was empty, quiet. The clock on the wall read 3:06 am. A wheelchair, empty and still, rested below the clock. Muffled beeps echoed from other hearts synchronized by a desire to continue beating.

My heart is broken.

I did not have a heart attack. Thank God.

I had symptoms, the kind of things I attributed to the need for better conditioning. When I took a stress test, the tech’s eyes got big. She asked me, “did you feel that?”

“Yeah. Kinda.”

“Let’s stop. Wait here.”

I put my hands on the treadmill rails as she gathered reams of paper squiggles and hurried from the room.

“You failed,” she said, returning a few moments later.

“What?” How do you fail a stress test. I’ve got plenty of stress.

A week later, an angiogram showed my arteries were clear. My heart was strong.

I knew it.

“You have an electrical problem,” the Doc said.

“I know. The lights in my garage won’t turn on.”

He didn’t smile.  “In your heart. We need to do an electrophysiology study.”

“I never liked research papers.” No response.

Tough Crowd.

As I lay on the OR table, naked and shaved, the cardiac team hooked me up to all sorts of wires. Twelve-lead-contacts pulsed across a sixty-two inch big screen as a tech joked about alien probes. I shivered.

“I’m going to give you a little bath.”

“It’s a bit chilly for that, don’t you think” I said.

He chuckled. “We like to keep it cool.” I thought I could see my reflection in his sunglasses.

He picked up a sponge and swabbed my neck, chest and groin with glacial betadyne solution from  cardiac mountain. I gasped and my body jerked. My arms and legs were strapped to the table.

“We usually like to sedate before this, but, new policy, we have to wait for the Doc.”

When the Doc arrived, he seemed to speak only in syllables–A-Fib, V-Fib, D-Fib.

“Let me know if you can feel this.” The Doctors lips were moving but he didn’t say those words. An ice cold creeping inched up my right arm. It reached my shoulder. I felt…

“Defibrillator,” the Doc said, smiling. My eyes were open. I was back in my room.

“Clear,” I said. He didn’t smile.

“You have ventricular tachycardia,” he says. His voice is solemn. I nod my head like I know what he’s talking about. He draws a remarkably detailed picture of my heart on the white board and explains. I get it.

This time, in the OR, I am able to keep my sweat pants on when they install an ICD device in my chest. I don’t remember much. They sedated me sooner so I couldn’t write about it.

IMG_4012_3am_HospitalNow, at 3:06 am, I’m awake, alone, and left to contemplate my own mortality.

I don’t want to die. Although, there are days when I think it might be nice. 

I don’t like having a device in my chest that controls my heart rate, shocks me if it beats too fast, and communicates by cell-tower with the Doc, and the NSA. I like to exercise. I take care of my body. I eat right.

Why me? 

I’m sure I’ve done something of significance in my life, I just can’t think of what it is.

Why now?

I love my wife. I love my children. Would they miss me? I’m not finished teaching them.

Why this?

The drugs they’re giving me make me question my reasoning. By 3:30 am I still have no answers. The incision in my chest hurts. I can’t raise my left arm. I can’t sleep on my stomach. I can’t go to the bathroom.

This could change my life.

As I drift into awkward dreams of sponge baths and alien probes,I offer a heartfelt prayer to God for help, love and forgiveness. Suddenly, joyously, I feel peace. Then, a bright light speaks to me.

“Are you awake? Let’s get your vitals.”

Muse 4–Noir Episodic

Franklin Jones was no stranger to trouble. It followed him around like a storm chaser. The wind was always blowing in the wrong direction to catch a break.

DSC00699_700_701_BrickWall_CroppedIt was 3:00 am on the corner of Hollywood and Wilcox and Franklin could hear the music inside the Playhouse Club beating to the throbbing inside his head. She was in there. He knew she was in there. He wanted to go inside. He needed to see her.

Franklin exhaled slowly. He could see his breath and shivered. People say it never gets cold in Hollywood, but Franklin knew that hell does freeze over. He looked up at the starless sky and cursed his luck.

“Don’t fall in love with a singer.”


DSC00677_8_9_Open DeliJeff’s lips were still moving. He’d been mouthing the words. He was standing on the corner of Hollywood and Wilcox watching Franklin. He shivered.

“Jeff!” She said it again. Jeff’s eyes rose from the glare of the laptop, straining to focus. “It’s three-o-clock in the morning. What are you doing?” Jill stood in the doorway of his office.

The woman pushed open the door to the Playhouse Club. He recognized her immediately. She winked. Jeff closed his laptop.



“Yes, writing.”

Jill took a step closer. “I’m worried about you.” She only came as close as the edge of his desk. “I think we should talk about it.”

Jeff stood up. “I can’t. Not yet.”

The only light in the room was moonlight. Jeff stood in the dark. He could see the shape of her body through her nightgown.

“This isn’t like your other stories,” she said.

“I know. It’s different.”

“You’re different.”

“She’s perceptive, I’ll give her that.” The woman stood in a corner of the room. She still had her dancing shoes on.

“What are you doing here?” Jeff demanded.

“I’m scared, Jeff,” a glint of hurt touching Jill’s eyes.

“Not you,” Jeff said.

The woman in the corner laughed. “Love triangle, Jeffrey?”

“This is not a love triangle.”

“Who are you talking to?” Jill demanded.

Jeff looked at the woman. He had the sense she was beautiful, and, dangerous. He looked back at Jill. She stood there in the moonlight, afraid, vulnerable. They had been together a long time. He wanted them to be together forever. He took a step around the desk and reached to touch her.

Jill stepped back.

Jeff sighed.


“Who, Jeff?”

Jeff shifted his weight to one foot. He was suddenly very tired.


“I’m flattered, Jeffrey.” Jeff held his breath and scowled at the woman.

Jill folded her arms across her chest. “Your muse is a… woman?”

Jeff shifted his weight again. “Yes…but…”

“You used to say I was your muse.”

“You are.”

She doesn’t believe me.

“It’s…just…this story.”

A tear drop caught moonlight in the corner of her eye. “What happened, Jeff? What is happening to us?”

“Nothing’s happening to us.”

“Clearly something is going on with your relationship,” the woman said.

“Be quiet,” Jeff barked.

“She’s here right now?”

“No…” Jeff waved his arms in frustration. “Yes…I guess.” He put his arms on Jill’s shoulders. “You know I’m making this stuff up, right?”

She shrugged him off. “Don’t touch me.”

“But Jill…”

“You can sleep on the couch.” She turned and stormed out.

“How long?” Jeff called after her. She didn’t answer.

“Men are clueless,” the woman said.

“As if you would know.”

“Of course I know, Jeffrey. I’m your muse.” The woman sat down on Jeff’s leather couch, and crossed her legs.

Jeff sat back down at his desk. “Now what?” he said to himself.

“Give me a name, Jeffrey.”

The woman blended into the darkness of the couch. Jeff couldn’t make out her features. Moonlight glinted off her stiletto heals.

“Clara Malloy,” Jeff said. He’d been thinking about her name for a while.

“Clara Malloy,” the woman repeated, slowly. Her voice was soft and sad. She said her name with the melancholy angst of unfulfilled dreams and unrequited love.

Clara leaned into the moonlight. “Thank you, Jeff.” Her eyes were dark, shadowed. Her hair was black with glinting highlights. Jeff could tell her lips were full and moist and dark with lipstick. His eyes lingered, wanting more detail.

“You had better go,” he said.

“But…the story,” she said.

“It’s my story,” Jeff said.

“I’m telling it,” She said.

“Hello there, Joe.” Franklin Jones stood in the doorway pointing a gun at Jeff. “Clara.” Franklin tipped his hat.

“Frank,” Clara smirked.

“What’s going on?” Jeff demanded.

“I saw you outside the club,” Franklin said. “I followed you here.”

“You can’t do that?”

“She’s here. Isn’t she?”



“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“You should write this down,” Clara said.

“She’s upstairs, isn’t she?” Franklin demanded.

“You’ve got this all wrong, Frank. Charlotte’s not here.”

Frank’s pearl handle .45 caliber glinted in the moonlight. “You’re lying to me, Joe.”

“Joe? My names’s not Joe. Are you nuts?”

“I saw you talking to her through the window, in her nightgown.”

Realization dawned on Franklin.

“You’re sleeping with her aren’t you?” Franklin pulled the lever back on his .45.

“Not tonight, I’m not.”

“Not ever.” Franklin pulled the trigger. The flash was blinding. The pain was exquisite.

“You should have written this down.”


Jeff opened his eyes. Liquid pooled on the keys of his laptop.


“You’re drooling.”

Five-year-old Hayleigh stuck her finger into the stream of fluid oozing from the corner of Jeff’s mouth and giggled. Jeff sat up. The QWERTY keyboard checkered his face. “It’s time to take me to pre-school.”

“Where’s Mommy?”

“Not here.”

Jeff stood up. His head hurt. His heart hurt. He checked his body for bullet holes.


“I dunno.” Hayleigh scooted out of his office. “Let’s go.”

Jeff tried to wipe the saliva from his keyboard. He wasn’t sure it would still work..

“I’m losing it,” Jeff whispered as he followed Hayleigh out of the room.

“You should be writing,” Clara said.

Jeff looked back. The room was empty.


Spice Bazaar–Istanbul

Before my eyes could adjust, the smell was upon me–pungent and powerful. My eyes were stinging with scents I did not recognize. Inside the ancient spice bazaar, crowds were swirling, the noise was disorienting. Shop keepers smiled and nodded at weathered women. Women scowled back in negotiation. Shouting began as a wave that crested and broke over exotic shops in the tidal rhythm of the ancient spice trade.

Islam is the most populous major religion in Turkey. Although no longer required, many women still wear the burka in public.

I raised my camera to capture the confusion and she froze. Perhaps she thought her burka made her invisible. Amidst the current of chaos she had been invisible. I would not have noticed the androgynous shape among the many shapes in motion.  It was in that moment of pause that our eyes met. Her eyes were all I could see. Sights and sounds and people were swirling about us and I could see her eyes.


I think that’s what I felt. I’m not sure if that’s what I saw.

She raised her hand, translucent against her robes and I took the photograph. We stood there for moments, centuries swirling before us. I could not see beneath her coverings. I had no desire to violate tradition. But in that moment, in her eyes, I could sense a depth of inner life, hidden beneath the burka; hopes, dreams, struggles, desires, hiding in the Misir Carsisi Spice Bazaar, in Istanbul.