*(originally published in the collection Telling Lies And Disappointing People)
Yvette broke up with me soon after I sat her down and explained that I had a baboon’s heart and was incapable of experiencing strong emotion. She didn’t believe me, at first. American girls with European names tend to be distrustful, in my experience.
“It’s true,” I told her, stroking her hand dispassionately. “An actual baboon’s heart. I had an experimental operation after surviving a plane-crash. I can’t feel anything.”
Yvette’s face was expressionless.
“It’s my cross to bare,” I said, gingerly patting my chest in the place where I imagined my heart to be.
I stopped stroking Yvette’s hand to smoke my cigarette. She tried to hold my other hand but it was occupied with a tumbler of whiskey, so she held the drink with me, caressing the tumbler affectionately.
I was drinking whiskey so it must have been fall or winter.
“Weren’t there any human hearts they could have put in you?” She asked, her voice low and tender.
“My plane crashed in the Congo. Not too flush with human hearts, but baboons everywhere. It’s a miracle I survived.”
“You poor thing,” she said, stroking my cocktail.
“I know,” I agreed. “I’m as troubled as a man with a baboon’s heart can be.”
After learning of my condition Yvette started to see me in a new light. Essentially, she stopped seeing me as a human. In her eyes my behavior and physical mannerisms became those of an ape. The way I stooped or reached for things, the way I howled in the shower. Soon all she could see was a strange humanoid with a baboon’s heart. But still, she stuck with me.
Actually, it wasn’t until she found out I was lying that Yvette became truly upset. Apparently she met some girl at the grocery store who’d spent an entire summer believing I’d gotten raccoon blood in a transfusion and that was why I stayed up all night digging through her stuff.
Needless to say, when Yvette found out that I didn’t have a baboon’s heart and that I’d only made the whole thing up in order to avoid any serious emotional attachments she became irrational, throwing around words like “sociopath” and “jewelry thief”, neither of which was completely true.
When I came home from work and found Yvette’s clothes and toothbrush not on the floor where they belonged I was skeptical, afterall it wasn’t the first time she’d thrown away a toothbrush as a statement about something or other. But when I noticed that her waffle-iron was missing I knew it was true. She was gone for good.
I grew pensive, until I remembered that Yvette leaving me had been my plan since the beginning. So I went somewhere to drink whiskey. Always whiskey, except in the summer, when tequila is the better choice.