Even In My Dreams I’m Holding My Breath

girl under a sheet
Yoann Boyer

I’m holding my breath.

They say that breathing makes us feel our emotions, and that when we don’t want to feel, we hold our breath instead.

So I’m holding my breath.

There are fingers in my hair. They run along the line where my forehead and hairline meet and the backs of my earlobes. The fingers are sweet and soft. The fingers are kind. It feels like they are touching the parts of me that are most “me”.

They trace what seems to be an arbitrary pattern, but I know it well and am shocked to recognize in it a guilty plea, the admission of how deeply they care. The fingers are hungry. They want to stray from their cranial confines and explore the rest of me. They come up to the edge of a line that cannot be crossed and skim along it for as long as they can bear.

I’m hugging this pillow to my chest like it’s one of those seat cushions from an airplane that double as a life raft and trying not to breathe with my eyes closed, and my legs are in the air because I’m lying backwards on the couch for some reason, upside down essentially, just trying to act natural.

But everything about this is upside down, and yet everything about this is natural, and I’m just trying not to make a sound because a single sound or a breath would ruin it all. Would give me away. Would make me feel the feelings. Except I’m already feeling them, but trying so desperately to keep them in, to keep them from leaking out, so that the fingers don’t notice.

I feel like they notice everything.

I feel like a child. I feel like a woman. It’s excruciating and blissful, and my heart is pounding and my mind is racing, and I can’t tell which of the two is faster, but it’s also possible that I’ve never felt this comfortable before in my life, and I want to surrender to it and let it lull me to sleep.

I don’t know for certain, because who can remember their whole life at once? Everything changes and blurs and is muted by time and distance and age, but right now, in this moment, I can think of nothing that even comes close. Every moment before this one moment pales in comparison. This one moment that can’t end soon enough; this perfect moment I wish could go on forever.

Don’t stop. I want to tell the fingers. Just a little longer. Long enough for me to drift off and wake up tomorrow imagining it was all just a dream. Because the alternative – letting them keep me up all night long, and the next night, and endless nights after that, really would be a dream.

No. I remind myself. That would be a nightmare. Because when the fingers stop, it’s silent, and my eyes are still closed, and I am completely paralyzed with fear. Playing dead, because no one wants to kiss a corpse. Because my dream isn’t crossing the line, it’s a world where it doesn’t exist.

The only kiss that comes is safe. Fingers touch lips briefly, awkwardly, and blow me one good night before stumbling out my door. Like every goodbye before this one, it feels like I am seeing those fingers for the last time, the hand with the tiny, fuzzy spot I found that night. Without knowing why, without feeling like I have any right for the thought to make me this sad.

This time, I’m right.

And I hold my breath. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

Chicago-based writer.

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