Ventricles and Begonias

I Failed Her

Ventricles and Begonias

She had a tattoo on her right ankle.
 
One that I’d trace with my finger every night as we lay on the couch, her feet lazily crossed one over the other--always right over left, never left over right.
 
The tattoo was of a heart. A picture of atriums and ventricles and all the anatomy I’d learned in sophomore year Biology, the diagram filled in and colored with begonias. Her favorite flower. I used to wonder how the artist could design something so intricate in such a small space.
 
“Why a heart?” I asked one night.
 
Her answer: “To remind me of the muscle that separates us from death.”
 
I never saw the signs. That she laid awake at night while I slept soundly beside her. That her appetite had waned, along with the motivation to pursue the things she once loved. Including me. I never noticed that her smile didn't quite reach her eyes, or how she preferred to dull the pain with our favorite Scottish ale.
 
I turned the key and opened the door to our apartment one evening, finding that same heart elevated five feet above the ground. Dangling back and forth, slowly. Lifelessly. And one sentence came to my lips like a broken record as I cut the rope and started CPR.
 
“I failed you. I failed you. I failed you.”
 
That heart stopped beating in time with mine.