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Original artwork by Lisa Widdess

A Lesson in Symbiotics, or How To Train a Heart to Beat Like a Friend’s Heart

Patrick Beath

First, take a deep breath and hold it. (Your chest should feel tight; if it doesn’t, you’re doing it wrong.)


While holding your breath, don’t think any of the following:

  • I love her strength.  
  • I love her fragility.
  • I love her self-sufficient home improvery and her fear of being alone.  


You may, however, contemplate critically her love of podcasts.


When you breathe again, do not 

conjure her scent.  

Instead, imagine 

the smell of new rain on old pavement.


Next, when you think of her (which is inevitable 

and often), force, 

in your mind’s eye, a

handshake: Firm, 

two sharp pumps, a 

quick release.  (You may allow up to 

a 30% smile.)


You will have an urge, in this

daydream, to draw

her in for an embrace, to hold 

her and to be held.


This may be accompanied by

a sense of exhalation, of 

relief, of surrender.  You may

find yourself succumbing 

to an impossible closeness.


That’s the wrong symbiosis.  

It’s the wrong semiotics.




(You may want to consider a bumper sticker.)