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A Simple Breath -- creative nonfiction by DAP

Happening truth: I sat on my bed, grabbed my phone and scrolled through its contents for a minute or so. Moving on, I began the new book which I had looked forward to reading, and moved to the corner of my bed where I sat peacefully.

Story Truth: A simple breath. In, out. I could easily feel each rib through my skin, rising and falling. Methodical almost. Beautiful even. Simple, and safe. In, out. In, out. I counted, measuring each breath carefully. 1, 2, 3, 4.

Closing my eyes, I made a sorry attempt at reflecting on my day. Arriving at school…how much had I had for breakfast? Stop. An enjoyable moment with friends in which…How much had I had for lunch? Stop. A…Only I couldn’t resist the shameful satisfaction. The following of my plan. The meeting of my goal. Each item added meticulously, each label carefully screened, allowing a temporary feeling of warmth and composure to invade my cold, clammy body, and my hands to momentarily unwrap themselves from my stiff arms, as my paranoia was temporarily smothered. Only the day was yet to finish, and a meal still remained. Upon the thought, my arms instantly leapt to their previous position, secure, supportive almost, as they folded over my rigid chest, attempting to stifle my fluttering heart as my body returned to its constant brink of panic. Stop. I told myself, attempting to think of something, anything, else. I glanced around the room desperately, my eyes catching hold of the small desk resting still on the floor of my bedroom. I inspected it from afar, noticing the few pencils and notebooks littering its clean surface. I needed to remember to clean that…one meal ahead. Stop.

Breath in. Breath out. Giving up, I quickly threw my hand out, snatching my phone from the shelf on which it had been resting peacefully, creating a sudden and noticeable disturbance in my silent bedroom. I quickly shoved it in front of my face eager for any distraction, clicking it on frantically, avoiding…but what would we eat? Stop. I swiped through the screen, each icon feeling more meaningless than the last. A fog had begun to engulf my mind, finally subduing the tightening of my chest and slowing the speed of my rapid breathing. As my stomach panged with hunger, a sheepish smile tugged the corners of my mouth. Good. Everything was on schedule. I could feel the tide of numbness soon approaching, as a wave of longing quickly passed. STop. Deciding on an icon, I clicked it open, hundreds of images appearing before my eyes, each failing to subdue the panic which had long been residing silently in my body, rising, as I fervently awaited the comforting numbness, like an addict awaiting their next fix. Soon, I reached an image of a cake. Simple. Dangerous. An electric current ran down the length of my spine as my stomach clenched with worry. I attempted to recall…STOp. I quickly scrolled past the image, moving to an adorable video of a baby wobbling as it tried to make its way to its mom for the first time, her arms open wide as she awaited her mother’s warm, safe grasp. I tried imagining my future. A first date, a wedding, a huge cake adorned with flowers… What about that apple I ate earlier? STOP. I refocused on the small bright screen and frantically scrolled past the video, yet again noticing the protective position one arm had taken, as the other weakly held up the phone. A text message popped up on the screen from a friend. Simple. Asking about a recent assignment, how my weekend had been. Another. Would I want to watch a movie the next day?

I almost slipped up. Nearly clicked on the little bubble. Almost let my instincts get the best of me. Let my finger hover over the small icon even. I frantically amassed myself. My slip had come far too easily. My control over my own instincts had fled far too quickly. I hurriedly reminded myself. Popcorn, butter, fruity drinks. My heart beat faster, audibly, in my chest. Instinctually, I employed my most efficient method of self-soothing, beginning a rapid calculation, the nutritional value of each item meticulously stored in my head. My stomach grew tight. I needed to be careful…STOP.

Breathe in, breathe out. I would find some way to avoid the plans later. This wasn’t helping. I grabbed the book nearby. A new book. By my favorite author. Cover new and different. Just recently borrowed from the library. Opening its crisp spine to the bookmarked page, I began to read. A Mom’s disappearance, the dad was suspected, but the kids didn’t believe it. The detective was growing warry. With no body and newfound information about the parents' relationship, she was growing suspicious herself, although all four kids assured her that their dad would never do such a thing. But the hairdresser had some new information. A mysterious guest had been staying with the couple. “Yikes,” I thought to myself, this was getting good. Slowly, I began to feel my breathing slow. In, out. In, out. A sudden unacknowledged exhaustion gripped me, causing my eyelids to grow heavy, as the long awaited numbness slowly perverted its way through my body, leisurely coursing through each vein. My heartbeat faltered, slowingg, downnn. My stomach rumbled. No, no, NO. I had one meal to go. I needed to know what dangers awaited me. How would it add to my total? Would it fit in my plan? It needed to. I needed to be careful. The soft blanket of numbness and warmth which had begun to engulf me fled as quickly as it had come. STOP. STOP. STOP. STOP. None of this was helping.

A simple breath. In, out. I sat up. Counted each breath. 1, 2, 3, 4. I closed my eyes, yearning for it to arrive. Trying to remember the feeling, replicate it even, with no success. My stomach ached. My limbs were like lead weights, burdens on my weak body. My head spun. My emaciated body sat still on the frame of my bed, to an outsider appearing peaceful, perhaps lost in thought. I waited. I was patient. Any second now… Any second…Until finally the long awaited numbness trickled slowly into my body. Waves of relief flooded my arms, my legs, my stomach, my head, as I quickly subdued each, letting them crash and fall in order to carefully preserve this long awaited feeling. I sat still. Careful. Breath in, breath out. A simple breath. A simple feeling. Only it was so much more.


DAP is a high school sophomore who enjoys reading, crocheting, and spending time with friends in her free time. Although she has no previous publications, she looks forwards to publishing her first work, and reaching out of her Massachusetts home town.

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