I'VE STOPPED BREATHING

The thing I find interesting about Our Town is the message of how you'll miss all of this when you're gone. Colors are more vibrant and even the most mundane item can be breathtakingly beautiful. A coffee mug. The weight of that coffee mug cupped in both hands, absorbing the heat from the hot drink in the mug. So pay attention now, kids! You don't get this stuff when you're dead. The flip side to this coin is what you no longer have when others are dead. Our Town is not about the living as much as it is about the dead. I wonder if Chris is standing just on the other side of some invisible wall, thinking the same thing. Are we both missing the things that are now gone? What's it like on his side of that wall?

Sometimes on dark days, I imagine the people I've lost wrapping their arms around my insides. In a Tim Burton inspired fashion, I see the ghost arms encircle my ribs and guts, my heart and I watch my internal organs turn gray and hard. Don't we all see our lives as a movie, our very own personal Truman Show? We all want to be a movie, a soundtrack, a star, even if it's that smallest most distant star. It's not so bad watching my insides turn gray and hard. I see it as invitation. "Hey, why not come hang out with us?" the dead say. And it's tempting. I'd love to veg out on the couch, watching dumb action movies all day with J or sitting in the driver seat of some expensive Cadillac as Dad drives us across several state lines to exchange it for a different fancy Cadillac. I'd love to spend the day doing anything with Chris. 

I've been forgetting to breathe. I'll be sitting at my desk and all of a sudden I will gasp for air as if I've been playing that game of how long you can hold your breath under water. I'm holding my breath. Every time it happens, I wonder about how long it's been since I last inhaled and exhaled. I know that part of this is all because I've spent the last month riding in cars and planes and hunched over microscopes or a lab bench. My chest has been closed off like a clam, but even clams need to open up and stretch sometimes. I used to do backbends all the time, opening up my chest, opening up my heart. Then my back broke and my heart felt squishy and vulnerable, so I stopped. Now the arms of the dead have wrapped themselves around my ribcage and my heart and I gasp for air like that goldfish I had as a kid who would jump out of the tank all the time. You'd walk into the room and he'd be laying in a damp puddle on the shag carpet, only his mouth moving as he struggled to breath air without water. That fish lived for ages despite all his suicide attempts. 

Today in savasana, I laid with a foam roller between my shoulder blades, my heart and lungs splayed open for all to see. I stayed there for ten minutes while I screamed inside my brain the whole time. It was torture. I could image the dead clutching to hold tight even while their fingers were being pried free. Before I knew it the ding of the timer was jolting me back to the here and now and the people I've lost no longer wrapped their arms around my heart and lungs. I am partly relieved and partly disappointed.