by Sarah Fazeli
I watched my father split a man open, crack his ribs in half and hook them apart; the cage of bones, its wide sides, like hands opening to receive communion. He had burned through the tusks of the man’s chest until he lay eviscerated, a splatted Frankenstein on the hard metal table, the bloodied paper gown.
“Look, Sarah,” my father said, pointing to the fat, palm-shaped blob in the center of it all, “That’s it.” It looked nothing more than raw chicken.
Together we peer inside the open bowl of the man. My father reaches in, and strokes the quiet heart, cold in its ice bath. Freezing in order to live.
“Watch this,” he says.
But when he pulls it up it is not the heart at all, not the raw chicken looking thing, but a bird that bursts forth from that place. It flies out of my father’s warm hand–my father: surgeon, madman, magician, priest. The bird breaks into tens and twenties and they flutter and fly around the room, all feathers and wings, cries and calls echoing through the sterile box of the O.R.
I look down again.
The heart is there, inside the man. My father puts his index and middle finger together, and holds them one inch away from the organ. “Watch this, Sarah,” he says. Like a maestro waiting for just the right count, he waits (two, three…) then taps.
“Beat!” he commands the heart. And it does.
“That’s the human heart,” he says to me. “That’s all it knows how to do.”