The voice in Kirsty Logan’s “The Rental Heart” is a vignette of personal transformation wherein the speaker grows from victim into willing participant in the game of love. “Rental” implies a certain amount of premeditated impermanence, an admission that these instruments of love(and thus the partners) are not to last.
“The problems came when the hearts got old and scratched: shreds of the past got caught in the dents…”
This passage is a nod to the addictive excitement new relationships inspire, and a veiled explanation of the speaker’s habit of discarding hearts and losing lovers. The stand-in organs are unreliable as substitutes.
“…the parts of me that I wanted to give to Anna were long gone, down the gutters of the city…”
The speaker chooses imagery that shows their broken heart as something that belongs in the gutter: it is no longer a functioning instrument, but a piece of detritus that is flushed away. The metaphor sets the speaker up as a broken thing as well, aiding the sense that the speaker is a victim.
The addiction to the love game soon follows:
“…the heart rental guy started to greet me by name. He gave me a bulk discount…”
The speaker’s implication is that there has been a transition from victimization to willing and frequent participant.
At the end of the story, the speaker relinquishes the impermanent sense of the relationship by removing the defective rental heart. We discover it does not hold any traces of the woman Grace.
“…but I hadn’t wanted to return it, to lose the image of Grace…no picture of Grace, no strands of her hair, no shine of memories, no declarations.”
The speaker, within the confines of the story’s fiction, transforms from willing participant in a charade, to willing participant in love. The speaker acknowledges their desire to drop the last shred of their sense of impermanence, and engage fully with the woman Grace, as well as with their own emotions.