Lungs

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A man remembers an ex-girlfriend in passing and he thinks of his experiences with her.

Submitted: November 20, 2013

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Submitted: November 20, 2013

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He thought he saw her on the street yesterday. He didn’t know why he thought it was her, but perhaps it was the way the air seemed to breathe her in rather than the other way around.

 

He remembered the first time he really saw her. They were driving down the valley with friends, and she was the only other one awake in the car. He glimpsed at her in the rearview mirror and saw how she looked into the distance, neither here nor there, a ghost viewing life through the eyes of an empty body. He watched the faint movement of her face as she took a breath of the stagnant air and ever so slightly leaned her head against the window, clenching her jaw as the desert expanded infinitely into the great unknown.

 

He remembered their first true date. She had picked a small coffeehouse in an artsy district of the city, and she drank her coffee black. She seemed at ease while his heart rate soared, and he struggled to keep the conversation going despite the fact they had known each other for years. She made it easy, though, and he eventually felt as calm as she seemed as she spoke unceremoniously. She said she loved working with children because she wanted to teach them how to love learning passionately and wholly, but she would never have any because it was too evil to bring a child into the acidic environment of necessary suburbia. He told her that coding required enough focus to forget about the world, and she looked at him with the saddest eyes he had ever seen. She did not allow him to walk her home, but kissed him on the cheek as they went their separate ways. Her breath was warm on his face, and the red spot near his cheekbone where she had laid her lips stayed red for the rest of the night.

 

He remembered waking up next to her. When she slept, the fine worry lines on her forehead faded away. She looked like a young child, with her dark eyelashes splayed on her pink cheeks. He could hear her bones creak in her back with each breath pulled in and pushed out. He remembered the faded scars he saw only in these vulnerable times, pale and old on her thighs. She never spoke of them, and he never asked.

 

He remembered an nondescript hike in the redwoods. The humid smell of wet tannins engulfed them with every staggered breath as they made their way up a hill. A large drop of water fell from the fog-enshrouded behemoths onto her face, and she jumped and flicked the water at him, laughing. Then they continued on their way, allowing the deep, dark forest to settle all around them in the deafening clamor of a quiet wood.

 

he remembered the host of a New Years party grabbing him by the wrist. Over the music, he was directed to the bathroom, where she sat on the floor, face in the toilet, dry heaving. One slender arm was folded beneath her head, propping her up, and the other twisted over to hold her hair back. A champagne glass sat on the counter, the bubbles still lazily making their way up the sides of the flute. From the angle she was sitting in, he could now see what his friends said. She has lost weight. The notches on her spine stuck out like welts and her shoulder blades were cliffs over the ribs poking through her back. She only looked up at him when her breathing had steadied, and the dark makeup on her eyes had run down her face. She drunkenly muttered a soft apology through her pale lips and closed her eyes. He asked her why she drank so much, with a growing concern in his voice. She didn’t respond.

 

He remembered holding the wedding invitation in his shaking hand before the gaping maw of the blue postal box. His fiancée made it very clear that he was to invite whomever he wanted, but now he had second thoughts. Would she even remember him? He was now a blurred face in the crowd, sharing nothing with her but perhaps the occasional atom that had travelled through her lungs and then into his, bouncing along the wind by coincidence. He took the invitation and instead tossed it into his glove compartment, and drove home to his loving bride-to-be ten miles over he speed limit.

 

He thought he saw her on the street yesterday. He didn’t know why he thought it was her, but maybe it was just an unconscious desire to know she was still out there, after all those years. But the woman turned to cross the street, and it wasn’t her, after all.


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