Four Truths of a Withering Heart by Daniel Wolfort


     Once upon a time, there was a boy with small hands and a withering heart.
     A withering heart is different than a broken one. A broken heart acts in accordance with Newtonian physics—action and reaction; tragedy and heartbreak. A withering heart, meanwhile, crumbles away, degradation and disappointment wearing it down to dust. It acts in accordance with the law of entropy.
     All things follow entropy. The heart is a singularity of time divided by experience divided by memory, all derivative of the heart’s singular, drumlike beating. And with each beat, a little more of the singularity is released, giving the finite amount of energy it contains away to the blood and bone and marrow around it. The heart ripples out through time and space and loses itself as it goes. I wish, says the heart. I wish.
     Wishing is a form of entropy, too.
     But this is not just a story of wishing. This is not just a story of empirical evidence or singularities or small hands or even of entropy—although all things are just stories of entropy at the end of the day. This is a story of a boy, and the heart he did not wish to have. And in the beginning was the Word and the Word was a singularity that spoke amid darkness, “Let there be light,” so we can conclude through the transitive property that words are singularities are stories are light. And this is the magic of the Word and the words: light is precious in a world so dark.
     The boy with the small hands and the heart he did not wish to have lived in a gray house with a bedroom with a window to the roof. The boy sometimes stood on the roof. He sometimes looked out across the ocean of suburban houses. The boy’s years raced toward entropy, and his space on the roof became the Cartesian coordinates (0,0,0) on the three-dimensional graph of his world. The boy’s heart raced toward entropy, and as it withered, it beat like a singularity. Let there be light. Let there be light.
     Come close, my friends, and I shall give the four truths of a withering heart. Come close, and I shall give light amid darkness.


     I know sorrow, and it is a scar on my heart the shape of love I cannot have. It is the sight of the first boy I ever liked, running to catch a Frisbee. It is the weight of my heart as a nine-year-old, lying in bed as I turn over the thought of him like a treasure in my hands. It is ten-year-old me in the lunch line beside him, resisting the urge to hold his hand. It is seventeen-year-old me looking at him across a classroom like a remnant of a life I wish I’d never had.
     I know sorrow, and it is the color of the sky above Palo Alto at 3 in the morning. It is the whirring of bicycle wheels as fourteen-year-old me cut out across the small city, searching for something I cannot name. It is an ache inside my stomach that is part hunger and part growing pains and part yearning for escape velocity from the solar system of my disappointment. It is writing the same poem over and over again until the sun rises.
     I know sorrow, and it is the train tracks that run halfway between my house and my high school. It is the wreaths of flowers left by my peers for classmates that have leapt in front of trains across my years in school. It is the footsteps I’ve left in the mulch as I’ve walked along the train tracks, asking myself if I am strong enough to make the leap, too. It is my footsteps on the pavement as I walk away from the tracks, deciding that I am not. It is the whimper of my sinking stone heart as I decide that I will never be strong.
     If you hold sorrow heavy enough, it becomes your world.


     I know anger, and it is a B- on a ninth-grade algebra test that I could not will myself to study for. It is me brushing off the grade with a laugh and a shrug, saying that math was never my strong suit. It is the knowledge that I had never done anything special, and so never tried to do anything special. It is the disappointment that said, “You will never be more than you’ve always been.
     I know anger, and it is the sympathetic voice of a teacher telling me that I was intrepid with sensitive topics, and that one day, I would grow out of that. It is my disbelief as I took in those words, and my confusion as I mulled them over for days. It is me laughingly telling others about the incident, making a joke of this moment when my courage was called childish. It is me hearing the words “you’ll grow out of it” over and over again, chasing me like echoes in a house I can never escape.
     I know anger, and it is my trembling hands as I hold thirty NyQuil pills, unable to put them down and unable to swallow. It is my buckling shadow as fifteen-year-old me full-body cries, resisting the urge to scream as I lay on the bathroom floor. It is me steadying my small hands, angry that I am playing this same game with myself instead of sleeping or writing or drawing or dancing or kissing a boy. It is me calling myself a coward for trying to kill myself. It is me calling myself a coward for failing to do so.
     If you bear anger dark enough, it becomes your world.


     I know my heart, and it is a dappled shadow that dreamt of being a real boy. Most days I feel less than human—more like a space on a bookshelf, more like an echo across a desert, more like a flock of sparrows across a vast ocean, like a shattered light bulb, like the ruins of a cathedral where I pray to the God I wish I believed in. Most days I feel I am assembling myself into something human, something real. Most days, I feel as if I have not succeeded.
     I know my heart, and it is forgiveness like soft rains on an ocean of rooftops. I forgive my feet for not running fast enough. I forgive my hands for not reaching far enough.      I forgive my mouth for not speaking loud enough.
     I forgive my family for not seeing my sorrow. I forgive my friends for not reaching me sooner. I forgive my teachers for turning away, I forgive my classmates for being so blind. I forgive every boy that has left a scar on my heart the shape of a love that I cannot have. I forgive every adult that has said I would not be enough. I forgive myself for believing them.
     This is the magic of the Word and the words: what others call you, you shall become.
     Become the Word, I said to myself.
     This is the magic of the Word and the words: call yourself what you wish to become.
     Become light, I said to myself.
     I know my heart, and it is the sunlight falling on a boy sitting beside me on a school bench on my last day of high school. It is the sound of his small, scared voice, unexpectedly telling me that he is afraid that he is not loved, and has never been loved, and will never be loved. It is his bewildered face when I ask him why he is telling me this. It is the words he told me then: “You’re the one people come to for hope.
     With those words, I began to believe in a way out of the darkness. With those words, my withering heart paused and began, slowly, to turn like a planet or a flower, forward through time, onward, away.
     If you have a heart wide enough, it becomes your world.


     I know the story, because it is the same one I have told one thousand times before. It is the same one I will tell one thousand times again. I am a creature of habit, of this we can be sure. Always the same equation, although variables change—a math instructor rather than a dragon, a handsome boy rather than a supernova, the word “heartbreak” rather than “the Omnipresent Law of Entropy.” All systems move toward chaos, no matter the system. All children move towards heartbreak, no matter the child.
     Do not be sad; there have never been new stories. In the beginning was the Word and the Word was a singularity that spoke amid darkness, “let there be light,” and the light of the singularity of the Word contained all things. I have no new stories to tell you. I merely have new ways to tell you. All things follow entropy, but not all things follow in the same way.
     Come close, my friends; light is precious in a world so dark.
     I know the story, and I thought it would choose me. I thought that one day, a whirlwind would arrive, or a rabbit would come calling, or a giant would knock down my door, and then the story would finally begin and I would not feel as if I am drowning at every moment of every day. I thought that I would be chosen as a curious and inquisitive hero. I thought that that the story would begin, and take from me the heart I did not want.
     I know the story and I have made a choice. I thought it would choose me. but no one is chosen. Not ever. Not really. To change from a reader of your own story to an author is a story all its own. Do not blame me for struggling. Beginning is always the hardest part. But this is the magic of the Word and the words: when I saw that there was no one left to choose me, I chose myself.
     In the beginning was the Word and the Word was a singularity that spoke and amid darkness, “Let there be light.” All things follow entropy; all things will change. Even stories. Even human hearts.


     Once upon a time, I chose to gather my stories in my small hands and spin a life out of them. Fractured, yes, heartbroken and mournful and elegant and clumsy and brilliant and wondrous and mine. In the beginning was the Word and the Word is me, and this day is the singularity, and these words are the light, and this moment is the beginning.
     If you tell a story big enough, it becomes your world—and this is only the beginning of mine.


Daniel Wolfert is a writer and composer in the South Puget Sound area. He’s won honorable mentions for two of his short stories and was a featured speaker at the University of Puget Sound’s first suicide-prevention summit. Apart from writing, he also privately teaches voice and piano, musically directs and accompanies local musical productions, and composes for performers in the area. More of his writing can be found on his music blog: