It was like having a French-built nuclear power station in his chest.
“You know: it’s clean, classy, fitted by the best, haute-couture stitches even, but although everyone keeps telling me it’s quite safe, nothing’ll go wrong, I feel like it could go POOF any moment.” He flicked the POOF into the air with five chewed nails. Sheesh, I’m telling a stranger my life story. He slammed his mouth shut.
“Or ‘pof’!’” his listener arched an eyebrow “you said it’s French-built…”.

His cellophane laugh crackled at the unexpected response. Relief seeped into his jaws. ‘I like a woman who can make me smile; I might need to kiss her later...’ He corked the thought just before it popped out. 

The decision to just up and leave his life – by plane, not coffin – hadn’t been taken so much as heard coming from his easy pulse as he’d lain pinned between his palate-knifed hospital sheets. (‘My God, I’m lying on a wedding cake’ had been the first thought that cut its way through the fog and into his mind on coming to.) And it was as he’d retreated inwards to escape from the sugarscape around him that he’d suddenly realised that, for the first time ever, his blood was pumping through an unknown heart. His very core was a stranger to him yet utterly familiar. And all in the space of a heartbeat. And he’d decided there and then that if they’d replaced the broken with the new in his body, he could do the same with his soul. Keep the ‘he’ he’d always been by installing a new one.

He’d swung his half-numb legs off the bed with (he thought) new-found grace (not French grace, though – they said his new heart was from Brixton), and hauled on the fuzzy-crunchy pull-ons they’d brought him from home – they were the only things I could find, sorry mate – how ironic that these were the only pyjamas he’d ever owned, a man always unembarrassed by his nakedness now embarrassed by strident-print pull-ons. ‘Oh well, here’s to the new me.’ He rubbed the bristles protruding from his face. Topiary. He’d never had that before either. ‘Right. Sweatshirt. Grey. Well, ok, not a completely new me.’ No-one had seemed to notice him leave the hospital room. ‘Must be the damned pull-ons,’ he noted with amusement, aware that they were the kind of thing people looked away from in an attempt not to stare. ‘So. Where to?’

And now, sitting here in Business Class on the first flight out to somewhere, (‘Great, that’ll do. Never been there’) he was talking about his health – his HEALTH! In the name of…! - to this almost translucent, immaculate woman with a fringe like two wedges of shiny black paper artfully arranged on her tallow forehead. The inflight music kept time to his heartbeat as they taxied slowly. “He’s told us not to blow it cuz he knows it’s all worthwhile” ‘Nice one. Brixton again. Good sign.’ And as he looked back in from the runway, his smile flashed sunshine at the woman. “Anyway, what’s your story?”