I have never paid much attention to breathing. It is just something that happens without thought, without reason. This air is hardly important until it ceases. Because then we are dead.
I talk very little about my sister. And even less about those moments prior to her death. I am still racked with grief and guilt if I allow myself the time to submerge my heart beneath the surface of the day-to-day fine.
She used a gun I owned. A gun my sister offered to keep because I was too nervous to have a weapon in my own home with a baby. That perpetual chain of events still takes my own breath away and leaves a putrid grief filled vacuum behind. Guilt laced air is what I breathe now.
In her final day or so she was not much to look at. A piece of her skull removed for swelling left her tragic head misshapen and uninhabitable. It was an unnatural symmetry to watch her chest rise and fall in rhythm with machines. I knew she was gone yet there she was lying in a shallow and selfish grave.
I go back to that moment often. For some strange reason I grasp at the fading memory trying to recall if she ever exhaled the final breath she drew. I do not know why this is important. And never mind that it is certainly of no consequence to the circumstances I find myself within today. But still I wonder.
Did she give something back or did she steal that tiny piece of air never to reciprocate again?
Thinking precisely back to nights in that big, white, and wooden bed I can hear her breathing. Nearly nose to nose I match my breath with hers and we share. We share the space and we share our secret burdens. And we never say a word.
Growing siblings often fight as they learn to share. But we were forced to share and we did so brilliantly. We never fought over who was fucking us. We never fought over who betrayed us. I held her collective breath and she held mine. But in the end we did not share survival and I will always wonder why.
We both grew up and with her final stolen breath our secrets died with her. Every minute of every day I breathe and if I'm mindful I can feel the pangs of the memories lost with her. She should be turning a year older soon but she never recovered from that last breath of toxic shame she took.
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