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Excerpt from Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist

by Sunil Yapa

Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa X
Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2016, 320 pages

    Oct 2016, 320 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte
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Print Excerpt


The match struck and sputtered. Victor tried again. He put match head to phosphate strip with the gentle pressure of one long finger and the thing sparked and caught and for the briefest of moments he held a yellow flame. Victor—curled into himself like a question mark, a joint hanging from his mouth; Victor with his hair natural in two thick braids, a red bandanna folded and knotted to hold them back; Victor—with his dark eyes and his thin shoulders and his cafecito con leche skin, wearing a pair of classic Air Jordans, the leather so white it glowed—imagine him how you will because he hardly knew how to see himself. He was nineteen years old and should have felt as sweet as a bluebird in the dew, but in the awful damp of the early morning, after another night of sleeping on cold concrete—or not sleeping—he moved like an old man, grumbling like the world was out to get him, had in fact perhaps already gotten him, struck him down without mercy or care or intent as if it hadn't even seen him standing there, he had just been in the way.

He knelt and made a cup of his two brown hands. Look at him bowing his head to this fragile light, joint pinched between his lips, wearing a puffy down jacket, olive green and so ragged he might have found it abandoned on the beach. Listen to the quiet rhythm of his breath. This is his morning ritual, the closest this boy comes to prayer. Skinny Victor, who believed in his heart of hearts that most everything was bullshit, for three years he had tramped the world and still he had no idea just how it worked, how people managed daily life on this blue-green planet of slums and smog, the easy knife, the lazy blade.

The traffic on the freeway thundered over his head, the sound of the big trucks hitting the joints of the highway a muted clacking like a pair of spoons. Beyond the cave of the underpass, beyond the water and the warehouses, out in the city where the streets climbed from the docks to the downtown core, the sound of the chanting crowd was a distant buzzing—fifty thousand desperate flies knocking against fifty thousand closed windows. Victor had heard talk of it for weeks. At the shelter. Bumming smokes from the tourists on the pier. At the coffee shop nursing a tea and swiping scraps from the empty plates. And now, here they were, thousands in the streets and the way their voices rose and fell, sliding down the hill, ringing off the renovated lofts, the brick apartments, the cars parked nose to tail along the oil-black street—it was like an alarm bell sounding in his chest. It was the million-voiced ocean roar of Calcutta or Caracas booming from their angry mouths, echoing in the canyons of smoked glass and steel.

An alarm ringing in his chest saying, Go, go, go.

He had been camped in a cheap tent beneath the underpass for three months now and he had put his mind to the matter, rolled it around in that big old brain, and he knew this much—he needed to get the fuck out.

Victor, he was onto some higher math.

The calculus of kind bud, the physics of dispersal, the geometry of escape.

He had more sticky, stinky, purple-haired marijuana on his person than ever before in his short life, and the glory of it, the mind-fucking enormity of the possibilities, had him whirling.

Because weed equaled cash and cash equaled a ticket on the airline of his choice to the destination of his choice. He was going to ignore how he scored the weed because escape velocity was the dope necessary to break free from the gravity of home's heavy hold. Lord, let us fly. Yeah, get the feet moving at a pleasant cruising speed of five hundred miles per hour to some dark and lovely corner of the globe. Let pilot and copilot read the dials and mark the birds; Victor only wanted to recline his seat and watch the border recede below him like a line of marching ants following a trail of sugar to its source.

Excerpted from the book Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa. Copyright © 2016 by Sunil Yapa. Reprinted with permission of Little, Brown and Company.

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