Bodily Proof

Graphic by Shauna Hong

Isabella Shin

3 March 2024
In the history of my body, I think we should start with my heart. When I was born, it had a hole in it, a tiny crack, small enough only for a needle to go through. I was kept in the hospital for an extra two weeks and gave my parents a lot of grief. But the thing about the body is that it wants to be good for you, give you the best blood, the best oxygen. So the hole healed, I got to go home, and my heart looked like everyone else’s. Or so I suspect—I’ve never seen my heart, just felt it on nights when I get scared.

I’m not sure why, but I think about this fact a lot—not how different my life would have been if my body hadn’t done this, but how different it is because it had. When we’re hurt, our bodies can heal all they want, but it doesn’t change the fact that the damage has already been done: what does it mean to have had my heart literally broken open?

Some hurt hinders our mobility, others appear as a raised scar on the skin, but I think mine trapped a little light within my heart. The hole in my heart is still there, and within one heart is the projection of a second inverted one, like a memory. I think it’s why my heart skips a beat, one heart testing to see if the other is real; they’re both hearts, and so they take too much burden for either of them to manage anyway.

I thought of this idea on the night of a third date. We sat beneath the stars at some black and white movie screening two towns over. He held my hand and my fingers cracked, and I felt an intimacy settle between my bones where the air had been. They say that you’re an accumulation of everyone you’ve loved, and now, when my fingers crack, that love is forever remembered. I am loving, which means I am living, which means I have a body as proof.

For example, when I invite someone to my room, I am always met with a moment of disappointment. I’ll show them my space, the decor I picked myself, and have a sense of awareness that they aren’t seeing what I want them to see because what I really mean is I want to show them my body. Not in a weird sexual way, but in the affection of sharing our collections, because the body is just a collection of our history. We think the photographs of our friends and family pinned on our walls would suffice, or the junk drawer in our closet, but it won’t; it never will. What I really want to say is, these arms? One’s longer than the other because I was obsessed with hanging off the monkey bars when I was a kid. These lines? They’re permanent tan lines from when I built sandcastles all afternoon on the beach with my brother. At times I wish I could open up my body, my heart, and show you what I mean, like I, too, was a junk drawer. But I can’t. So I lead them downstairs, and see if they notice my lopsided arms.

But maybe there’s beauty in that, too: although we cannot be as overt as we’d like to be, we manage to know each other anyway, opening each other like a favorite cabinet or a heart-felt birthday card. One of my best friends has a cavity on the left side of her forehead from when her sister accidentally swung a shovel and took it out. It’s hard to see unless you really squint, and even then, I wouldn’t have known unless she told me. I told her I was surprised it never healed, to which she responded “but it did.” It did, didn’t it? The best it possibly could? In other words, everything leaves its mark, even pain, most definitely love, if less obvious. I’m in love with the thought: that we can be so impressionable, so swayed by the currents of life, so changed, that our beings are intrinsically connected to the people and things we find along the way. Consider a second heart in the chest, cracked fingers, divots in foreheads, consider that people die of a broken heart, of too much life.