The heart, your only one, is only on the left. Situs invertus is the name for the opposite, when all of a person’s organs are flipped over the spine like an axis of reflection. The spine, which goes all the way up from your pelvis into your skull, does not seem unreasonably long until your fingers go from the top to the bottom of it on another body and feel. Breathe deeply into your ribcage instead of your diaphragm: your ribcage, your bones, move.
When you breathe deeply into any part of you, it’s difficult to tell that your lungs and your collarbone are in the same place.
Human lungs, even being paired, are distinct from one another. The right one looks the way you’d hope a lung would look. The left one does not. It has a slab missing, and where that slab is on the right, there the heart is on the left. Your body builds a cavity for the purpose of beating.
Women experience a shifting of their organs as their bodies get out of the way of the child they carry. It takes up to a year for the organs to resume their original positions post-partum. Spleens. Kidneys. Livers. We have all these parts that we can’t feel.
Sometimes, in sadness, I wrap my fingers around my hipbones, feel the ball and joint, what rotates and twinges and grinds. No matter what way I do it, I can never press on my belly and say, “Here, my uterus,” can never be sure by any measure.
You can’t feel most of your muscles, which move you. You can’t tell where your amygdala, which remembers, is. You can’t tell anymore, when adrenaline has flowed too long. You can’t think your heart into beating any less, even when you wish you could.
Feel, as the car flips, my face, the smack, the window. Feel a long walk in the sun and sandals, a rusted nail, my little toe. Feel, wobbling in its bearing, my knee. That’s empathy.
Feel, when I see a man’s bare back, a lie. Feel, when I see a man’s nose, that slope. Feel, when I see a man’s fingernails, hands slicing air. That’s nostalgia.
Feel how drunk I got. Feel how I couldn’t feel the cold. Feel nausea. That’s jilted.
I am attempting to escape myself.
He dared me: I touched the train when it was stopped. I jumped on and held on and jumped back off.
My lungs flapping. My heart lunging, first forward, then down, throwing itself against the cage designed to be a home.
That piece of lung I could have used to breathe more deeply and feel a little less.
Carly Madison Taylor is an essayist, poet, and songwriter. She received her BA in Creative Writing and Dance Studies from Knox College, and is currently wandering. Her work can be found in Vamp Cat Magazine, Rag Queen Periodical, and on the Herstry Blog. You can connect with her on Twitter @carma_t and Instagram @car_ma_t.