Motionless

(Note: Every other day or so, I’ll post the next installment in my series, Myths & Meditations. This one comes next after “Breathe” from the section, “Meditations: I am Here and So are You.”

Two young girls stand side by side. One is at least a foot taller than the other, gazing with a sideways glance at the smaller. They are sisters, but you couldn’t tell by mere appearance. The taller one has a hook-like nose and prominent grin. The other’s face is round with a flat nose and eyebrows that are barely there. They both wear loose dresses. They both have crooked-cut bangs.

There was a time when the older sister in this photo was an only child. Her bangs were not as crooked. Her outgrown dresses were not yet hand-me-downs, but kept in the closet just in case. Her gaze in photos directed at her own awkward feet and not at someone else.

And then her sister was born. Soon it seemed her sister was a permanent fixture, attached to her side. It felt as if her sister had always been there. No photo was necessary to demonstrate their closeness. Nevertheless, the older sister cherished this photo. She kept it snug and safe in her wallet. Years later, she found an old photo of herself by herself, which she compared to this one with her sister. She barely recognized herself, a time and space she occupied without her sister. Her sister – still here – with a face now rounder, now worn.

Now the older sister is no more. The remaining sister now takes pictures by herself. She seeks to fill that motionless, empty space.

Breathe (from “I Am Here and So Are You” out of Myths & Meditations)

*
I hold my breath. Breathe. I hold my breath. Hold it hold it hold it hold. The other keeps breathing.
Breathe. Under the covers. I must be breathing because I hear it. But so is she. Or it. Two breathe. Distinctly.

In the corner. In the kitchen. Maybe it is hungry.
I could tiptoe over there where the other breathes. But.
Nothing could have come in. The chain is on the door. Always I keep it chained when I am in, at night for safekeeping and during the day for privacy.

The air is hot in here. Breathe in more and faster.

She is closer now. Somewhere in the middle of the room. Peek over the covers with just my eyes. All is dark, except for the No disc blue light flashing from the TV. Slits of pale yellow peek through the blinds. A car’s headlight sweeps across the opposite wall. They are out there and I am in here.

I could go back to sleep and dream, where no one needs to breathe. Where specters float and drift on memories and fantasies.

The breath breathes. Consistently, like the grandfather clock at grandma’s house. But I’m no longer there and haven’t been in years. I try to remember what it was like, sleeping on the recliner with my electric blanket, strings hanging out at the fringes, the smell of wet dog. I couldn’t get to sleep anywhere else but the living room, to the soothing tick-tock of that old clock, in my warm sweatshirt and tube socks.

I am here. I cannot sleep. Daydreams give me no peace.

The other breath is right here, unaware (or doesn’t care) that it is in my space.

Breathe deep. My nose leaks. Wipe the goo with the sheets.

The breath goes on, unalarmed.

Inhale into ribs. Exhale out into spine. In-out. In-out. Concentrate. Eyes warm and light.

I listen for my own breathing.

I breathe.

And so does she.