Your heart was already full, but then you saw him and your heart beat code, not Morse but a more insistent pulse: Oh yes. That’s him. That one.

Not The One (The One you already have – and deeply love) but of all the people in that large room far from home, he was the one for you. And your heart stretched more than it should have, tore a little, and let him in.


  • Swelling, bruising, or redness. The feeling that your lungs contain a higher percentage of oxygen and have somehow grown in their capacity to respire. A heightened sensitivity to glances, postures, gestures, attitudes, and casual remarks from observers. A propensity to blush.
  • Pain at rest. General restlessness. An inability to sleep. Fever dreams. Sleepwalking. Conscious walking: out of your bedroom, out of doors, into the moonlight or an unmown field shrouded in mist and ache (or fantasies of same).
  • Pain when the specific muscle is used. When your heart beats to force blood through your femoral arteries, to your iliopsoas muscles, your sartorious muscles, your peroneus muscles, each expanding and contracting to force your legs to walk away, from him, from thrill, from all the promise and potential of an alternate future.
  • Inability to use the muscle at all. Lethargy. Apathy. Malaise. Especially after having walked away from the one in question.


  • Apply ice: cool it. The early application of heat can increase swelling and pain. [Note: Ice or heat should not be applied to bare skin. Always use a protective layer – latex only as a very last resort, clothing is better, or, better still, several feet, a separate piece of furniture, a wall, or a building. Ideally: a state line, a continent.]
  • Try an anti-inflammatory such as herbal tea or a pro/con list. Cool showers and brisk walks in bracing air may help. Do not take depressants in the form of alcohol or otherwise. Avoid stimulants: caffeine, chocolate, Cheetos.
  • Protect the strained muscle from further injury by refusing to jump into anything. Avoid the activities that caused the strain and other activities that are painful.
  • Hold yourself together.
  • Rise above.

When to Seek Care

If home remedies bring no relief in 24 hours, call your youngest and most bohemian friend.

If you hear a “popping” sound, signifying a break from your primary relationship, the one (The One) you truly know and truly love, call your closest and most-trusted friend.

Exams and Tests

Your youngest and most bohemian friend asks,

Are you going to run away together, tryst in motels, meet up in Paris, open a P.O. box, wear a trench coat, give each other code names, assume another identity?

Would he be up for a threesome?

Want to use my place?

Says, It’s so romantic.

Says, Tell me everything!

Your closest and most-trusted friend asks,

What do you mean, “met someone”?

Have you thought this through?

Is this choice supporting, adding to, enriching, complicating, marring, degrading, not even leaving a blip on the screen in the way in which you will see your life in the years to come?

What will you be left with? Regret? Memory? Or absolutely nothing?

Says, Time wounds all heels.

Says, Don’t fuck up.

Recommended Reading

  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  • The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller
  • Time Will Darken It by William Maxwell
  • The Lone Pilgrim by Laurie Colwin
  • Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
  • “The Littoral Zone” by Andrea Barrett
  • The End of the Affair by Graham Greene

No horoscopes. No tarot cards or tea leaves. If you must, you may steep yourself in stories of passion and price. Years from now you can indulge in what-ifs. But for now, right now, put your hand to your chest and feel what beats. The only muscle you can’t live without needs to stay whole.


Randon Billings Noble is an essayist. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming from the Modern Love column of The New York Times; The Massachusetts Review; Brain, Child; The Georgia Review; The Rumpus; Shenandoah; Fourth Genre and elsewhere.  She is a nonfiction reader for r.kv.r.y quarterly and Reviews Editor at PANK.

Photography by Laura Frantz