Rock N’ Roll and Broken Hearts.
9:15 in the morning. Tuesday. The sun is piercing through the window of our van as we cut through a February morning that is so brittle-cold that it seems to be crystallizing. The warm ray of morning sun helps. But we still frost the inside of the window with our exhalations. The local radio station is on, softly. They are trying to warm things up by playing some Black Keys. The song is Little Black Submarines. It sounds an awful lot like Stairway to Heaven. I am chatty with the girl, and I speak over the music. The girl, dressed for preschool, corrects my inconsiderate prattle. “Shhhhh!! Let me hear the singing, Dad!” So I do.
Nameless Black Keys singer dude says something pat like “a broken heart is blind.” He thinks it is clever, so he says it a few more times. I suddenly can’t stop thinking of cowboys and their sad… sad songs. My daughter, though, looks out the window into the glacial blue morning and listens quietly to his rock n’ roll barroom wisdom. The song vanishes and I don’t miss it when it is gone. Music fades to commercial, which I turn off. The girl is quiet for a minute. We pull into the parking lot of her preschool. I turn off the van and wince against the arctic blast that will greet me when I open the door. Then, a voice from the booster seat behind me:
“If my heart gets broken, then it won’t work any more and then you will have to take me to the doctor to fix it and then I would be sad.”
“Oh, no, honey he isn’t talking about that kind of broken heart.”
“But you will have to fix it. It won’t work.”
“No, no he is talking about a different kind of broken heart.”
“What kind of broken heart is he talking about?”
“It has to do with love, honey. Grown up love.”
“But what if my heart gets broken?”
“It may someday. I’m sure it will. Everybody gets a broken heart sometimes.”
(Nice going, Dad.)
“Do you have a broken heart, Daddy?”
“Not right now, but I have had a broken heart, yes.”
“Did you get it fixxed?”
“Well …Those kinds of broken hearts always get better on their own. Sometimes it just takes a long time.”
“Did you have to go the doctor?”
“I don’t want my heart to get broked.”
“The guy in the song was talking about love, honey. He loved somebody and she didn’t love him back, or she hurt his feelings. And he feels it right here, so he calls it a broken heart.”
“There are a lot of songs and poems and books and paintings about this kind of broken heart.”
I open the door of the van, and the sharp finger of winter tries to slam the door shut again. I struggle against it, but ultimately win. The girl is quiet as I unhook the eighteen locks and buckles that bind her to the van seat. She shudders as the icy wind rushes into and around the inside of the van. I plop her down on the pavement of the parking lot and close up the van.
“Brrrrrr!!” Her teeth chatter, and little drops of dew puddle beneath her beautiful brown eyes.
“Let’s get inside!”
We walk together, briskly, into the remarkable warmth of the community center that houses her preschool. Inside, I feel the ice begin to melt from the spaces between our bones. The center is warm and vibrant. There are pink and red streamers streaming everywhere in every rafter and window of the place, leftover decorations of the Daddy/Daughter Valentines Day dance. I wanted to take her to the dance, but she was too young this year. She loves these decorations; she’s loved them for weeks and she squeals with delight for the hundredth time at the sight of them. We near her classroom. I can hear the familiar squeals of her classmates and the ever-present thick smell of garlic coming from the little kitchen across the hall. She points to something on the wall.
“Daddy, looooook!! Hearts! Pink ones!”
“I LOVE pink hearts,” I say.
“Me toooo!! And they’re not broken!!” she says with what seems like real relief.
We enter the classroom. We do the whole checkin/coat-hanging/handwashing thing. She practices writing her own name and prepares for circle time. I kiss her softly, and hug her firmly and tell her I love her and that I’d see her in a few hours. Instead of running to circle time with enthusiasm like she normally does, she looks at me with worried eyes. I smile as I back out of the room. “I’ll see you in a bit, honey.” I blow her a kiss as I turn for the door. There is a crash at my leg. I look down. She is there, squeezing with all her might. She looks up at me with watery eyes. This is very atypical of Herself. Herself is Ms. Independent and has been that way pretty much from day one.
“What if you go away and get a broken heart, and then you can’t fix it and then you can’t love me anymore?”
And just like that, my heart is broken, right there, in that very moment, in a beautiful wrenching way that I could never explain to her. So I don’t even try. I simply bend down, turn her tiny head so my lips touch her ears and I whisper, gently, “Honey. I will always love you. Always. No matter what.” This is the truth, and the no matter what has yet to come and I’m thankful for that. There’s time for that later. Right now, I just love her. And she hugs my neck.
I stand, and blow her another kiss. Her eyes are still locked onto mine as I back out the door. I close the door and walk away. Not until I am halfway down the hall do I turn and look back. There she is, craning her neck to watch me through the window, her eyes still locked onto mine as I disappear around the corner into a billowing tide of pink and red.