A deep breath—I fill my lungs and close the airway. Submerge my face in a pillow and resolve myself to wait until my lungs burn—I await the pain. My senses screaming, my lungs driving me to let them have the oxygen they so desire—I decline. Funny how I chose that which offers peace to the weary, an item that invites comfort to rob myself of that most archaic means of surviving. I find it interesting how calm I feel while denying myself that which I know I cannot live without. Isn’t it odd how we only become aware of the subtle currents of air that tickle our skin, raising chill bumps where it finds us bare when we deny ourselves its luxury? Luxury. That’s an interesting way to phrase it really—Breathing as a luxury. A gift of power, smug in our abuse and neglect we fail to see what we loose when we breathe. Lying here refusing to give myself life—for that’s what air is really, and breathing is living. I laugh. Oh yes, I find it funny. I catch myself readying to breathe again and I still that notion. Shove it down; subdue it until it is nothing but a stinging memory in my chest. It takes a lot of strength to deny yourself to breathe. But somehow that only drives me to test that strength.
I wonder if I will forget how? Could the muscle memory that pilots such a necessary involuntary act be forgotten? No, of course not. But perhaps the feeling of fresh air full of life could be. Could it? Perhaps not. For even as these words find themselves onto this page I find myself remembering what it feels like to expand my lungs, for the blood to cool as it gathers its fill with oxygen as it travels on its wending cyclical way. I laugh again. The burn begins to spread and I feel my muscles atrophy. Yet they tighten and tense as if under assault, screaming at the atrocity wrought upon them. Though still I refuse to breathe.
I roll away from the pillow, open my face to the still air and feel it tickle as it tries to find a weakness. Denying my lungs for so long I begin to feel my skin breathing. Absorbing oxygen as cellular mitosis continues in spite of my flirtatious dance. Maybe I am just dreaming. I feel the fire subside. As if my body accepts its doom. “No breath for you,” I say. “No easy outs.” And resolve continues.
Amazing how long a person can go without breathing, pushing ever closer to that most primal fear—that of not being able to breathe. But I can. I feel my chest involuntarily expand, demanding the very thing I strenuously withhold. I know by that alone that I can breathe, I can live. But still not once do I begin to inhale the sweetness that I need. I want it now, but the primal is so enticing. After all, it is when we fear that we truly know what it is to live. That’s when we feel life. As if it were a tangible being that we’ve strapped to ourselves so that it won’t escape. I’ve set mine free. I’ve let go. Maybe it will return to me. Maybe it will leave me in my vain attempts to deny myself to continue fickly on to another. But which do it want--Perhaps neither, perhaps something more. Beyond breathing, beyond mere muscle memory, beyond what I cling to. The Pain returns.
I want to breathe. I want to live. I want to feel the rush as all my body awakens and revels in new existence--Rebirth. Its odd how something so ordinary can redefine a person, how something so obviously taken for granted and ignored can make us anew—a Renaissance of living, giving new life to life, helping life live. That’s just funny to say. My chest chuckles--I can’t laugh. I can’t breathe so how could I anyway? I smile. Vanity is alluring. I am vain. I deny that which defines life just to feel alive. Vanity, Luxury, Rebirth, Pain—such is the nature of my breathing, the archaic nature of involuntarily driven muscle memory.
Would I even know how to breathe if it wasn’t burned into the most ancient quadrants of my brain? I don’t even know the part that drives the muscle memory. Perhaps when people die there are a few lingering moments where their lungs contract like the twitching mouth of a decapitated fish, gulping at air to fill dead lungs. Maybe breathing is so primal that it doesn’t end with the rest of the body.
The burn has come. I can feel the fire inside my chest. I welcome its warmth, rubbing my hands over the radiating inferno as if I just came from the dead winter cold without the weathering to block out the chill. The warmth permeates through me. Would breathing feel better than this? Could it? I doubt. Only at the razor edge of life while teetering upon the precipice stealing insecure glances to the other side on the off chance that we may glimpse a greener field do we know what living really is. So aren’t I living now more so than ever before? Whilst denying myself a breath, aren’t I more aware of what it means to be alive? I laugh. Denying yourself air only leads to an end. No, the end--Death. Yet I appreciate life more so dying than living. I deserve to die. Taking for granted that which is stolen from innocents daily. Innocent? Now that’s a peculiar ideal. They are the same. I wonder if they are aware that they breathe. That’s absurd, of course they are. How could they not be? ******* life, ******* air, but do they know what it means?
I feel my lungs contract again—Pain. That’s all it is now, but why? I know I can breathe, yet I choose not to. Is it the act of forcing myself not to take a fresh breath, or the fact that I have yet to do so that hurts? Maybe it’s because I now know what I’ve been doing all these years. At the brink I realize what it means to live. Was I living before? Yes, but I wasn’t alive. Interesting that, to live without being alive—sounds as if I’m hooked to a load of machines keeping me from decay. That’s all they do really. Awareness, that’s living. Breathing is merely the means. The end is being aware, awakened to the fact that an action which you can’t control is the only thing keeping your head above ground. After all, even when drowning the body wants to breathe.
I open my mouth. I lie to my body. I still fill my lungs with nothing but stubborn desire, desire to delay my breathing. I imagine what it will feel like to take that first breath—a Renaissance of living. I can feel the blood in my veins bubble in anticipation. My body wants to be alive. My heart can’t beat fast enough. Striking a furious pace it pumps my blood through my body spreading life and oxygen to every limb making me light headed and delirious with its purity.
I’ve decided. I’m going to breathe again. I’m going to live. And what’s more, I’m going to be alive.
My mouth still open, my lungs still closed, still screaming, still burning, still tightening in their involuntary way—breathing air that isn’t there, air that they know is there, available to them at their whim. I open my lungs.
I exhale. Now that is interesting. I’ve denied myself the life of breath until my lungs begin to pump out of sheer memory and longing for that which gives them purpose. Denied that which defines life, that which I want—that I need. And I exhale?!? Further delaying what my instinct has told me to take? How is that logical?
Air rushes into my lungs. Funny, I scarce expanded them at all. I feel the life rushing to my fingertips, to my toes, to my ears and eyes—to my kidneys even. I am alive. It’s funny though. Part of me feels like I’ve just died, like I’ve ceased to live. I laugh long and hard, throaty and merry and so brim full of life. I began to live again, became alive at the very instant I ceased to exist. And it is so funny.