Heart to the Slaughter

Crash, bang went her heart.

I woke up this morning before my alarm because I went to sleep around 11 last night. Exhausted and upset, I had turned to sleep for comfort. But dreams do what dreams do; they flash memories and reveal things. They open you up with a surgical ease, an amazingly unpleasant game of Operation. It’s as if you’re standing on a roof naked. The birds watch as they fly overhead, flapping their wings and squawking about how silly you look with your pale butt exposed to the sky. But it feels private; you know the birds won’t tell. And this is how I felt this morning, my pale butt a shining beacon of insecurity and guilt.

But this is life, isn’t it? We have emotions we try to deal with. We end up hurting others in the process through our figuring it out. Sometimes the emotions stab us all over. We feel that pain in our eyes, so we cry. We feel that pain in our gut, so we throw up. We punish ourselves. We feel like shit for a long time, then maybe we don’t a few years later. It’s what makes us human, this process. Our ability to feel so deeply is what makes us special and a little bit nuts.With relationships, we punish ourselves the most. We lay our heart on the pavement and let people poke and prod and step on it. This is called love. It is a curse, a blessing, a side effect of being human. I love. I’ve been loved. I’ve been so in love I’ve lost myself to fear and self-loathing. I dream of love. I dreamed of it last night. And this morning, I thought of it as I finished my latest book from my reading list and then felt that stab in my eyes.

I finished Dumped, an anthology of breakups and broken hearts edited by B. Delores Max. It includes everything from portions of Sense and Sensibility to Roald Dahl’s tale Lamb to the Slaughter. I read all twenty-three stories, some good and some bad. Wives leave husbands. Husbands leave wives. A young gay boy is felt up by twins. Dresses are torn. People are killed. But the stories aren’t just about the breakups, they’re about other feelings. They’re about attempting to rediscover happiness. They’re about recovery. My advice: don’t read it if you’re experiencing relationship troubles. Just don’t. Wait a while.

Here’s a list of the stories in this anthology. I’ve starred (*) my favorites:

The Zagat History of My Last Relationship by Noah Baumbach
The Spanish Lady by Alice Munro
Access to the Children by William Trevor*
Willing by Lorrie Moore
From Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen*
The Male Gaze by Lucinda Rosenfeld*
From This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff*
UFO in Kushiro by Haruki Murakami
How to Love a Republican by Steve Almond*
The Fourth State of Matter by Jo Ann Beard*
Under the Radar by Richard Ford*
From Herzog by Saul Bellow
A Telephone Call by Dorothy Parker
Over the Hill by Andre Dubus
From Open House by Elizabeth Berg
Final Touches by Dan O’Brien
My Stuff by Roger Hart
The End of the Relationship by Will Self
Making Arrangements by Elizabeth Bowen*
Marching Through Delaware by Bruce Jay Friedman
Lamb to the Slaughter by Roald Dahl*
The Camping Ground by Dallas Angguish*
Fever by Raymond Carver*

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