Keeping my heart in his pocket, he said, made him feel it would not seem so far away. It was a silly thing, the conversation on that last night. I can’t remember how it started but he made me a promise that if he could keep my heart then I could keep the moon. When he returned we would swap, my heart in exchange for the moon.
His letters arrived battered with black and sinister marks throughout – and there was always too much time between them. Too few words in them, no matter the number. He was ‘good’ and ‘safe’ and I believed him because I had to. They were just repairing school houses and things like that, he said. “Nothing dangerous.” Always at the close he’d write, “I’ve got your heart in my pocket and it’s safe. Are you keeping the moon for me?” I was.
My days were just a repository for the minutes and hours to empty into. Days without letters where black and white. Days with letters were loud with color and bright with sound. “Are you keeping the moon?” Yes, I was. I kept it all night long. Every night. Faithfully. The moon and I had become quite close. She was the only one I shared my tears with, the only one who understood.
Months marched on and letters still came, but infrequently. He needed soap, batteries and white socks. I sent soap, batteries and white socks – to him – to them, his buddies. Fellows who had no one’s heart in their pockets. Young men. Brave Men. Lonely men.
And I kept the moon all the while, safe for him, a gift for his return. Sometimes on a still night, cold and standing in wet grass I wondered if he was keeping the moon. Out there. In that place where my heart could only travel, safely tucked next to his heart. “Is he keeping you too?” I’d ask the moon but she did not answer. She only sung in blues and greys and sometimes gold – but she did not answer.
When he was just weeks from my embrace I lost the moon. The night was black with rain, cold and walled in itself. There was no escape for me or her, we were trapped by relentless pounding and merciless sky. All the night I stood at the window trying to find the lost moon but it, like he, was gone.
No letters arrived with assurances of my heart’s safety – and it thumped in my chest like a drum out of tune. The parade had ended. I stopped keeping the moon.