Updated: Sep 27, 2020
I can feel every ridge, every callus. His fingers are pressed into my nose, my lips. One has somehow made its way into my eye. I can’t breathe, I try to, I come up tighter against the skin of his palm against my nostrils.
I am literally breathing him into me.
Oh my God this cannot be how I’m going to die!
But his own breath is hot in my face. “Don’t… fucking… say, a WORD. You hear me you little bitch?”
I try to nod. But then realize that the back of my head is pressed too close against the metal of my car. My trusty 1988 Volkswagen Fox. Passenger side.
I can’t nod, I can’t answer him, I can’t breathe.
Randomly, I feel a rising sense of loss, in the press of that car against my head. I form a surprisingly deep thought:
This bruise represents the last time I will physically connect with my car.
...Whether I get free or not.
"Goddamit you nosey, fucking, bitch! How the fuck did you end up seeing this gun..."
But I know he knows how. I found it because he hid it in the trunk of my car. He has a key, of course, and stops by my store to take it "for a spin" all the time.
Which is one way he reminds me that he's always watching, always there.
I went to unload the groceries tonight, and there it was: a 22 wrapped in a towel, just sitting there under a bag of rice.
And earlier this week, I overheard him and his friends laughing - much too hard, of course - about a deli that had been robbed up on the mountain.
It makes easy sense. Why wouldn't it be him and his ragtag, wannabe gang? He and his "dawgs" (ROOOOOF) must have held up that restaurant, and used my little blue Fox as their getaway car.
And now the evidence is pressed into my left temple.
My skull is actually locked between two pieces of metal evidence: one is the symbol of my potential freedom from him, and one is the symbol of my potential freedom from life.
Please God. I choose life!
I think these thoughts. My body struggles.
And then suddenly, it relaxes entirely, as if it is giving up in order to conserve whatever energy is left.
Perhaps this is an involuntary safety mechanism that kicks in under these kinds of circumstances? Maybe the body slows to leave fuel for the brain... to make sure we're awake for the full effect of our own death?
My eyes go wide.
My lungs suck in, but once again I come up tight against his palm. A tiny trickle of air, and then he quickly closes it off again.
He is the God of Breath, and he has chosen to take mine away.
“You hear me??”
My eyes are wild on his. How can I convey the message? Please! Fuck! Please!
The cold metal of the barrel presses harder. It is starting to feel hot on my skin.
My eye stings and a stream of salt water fights its way out, slides slowly down my face.
It tickles as it goes, a pantomime of the minute hand on a clock.
No. No! He's going to think he’s made me cry...
For some silly reason, this angers me.
I notice it for the millionth time: his power over me!
Of course he can physically take me; he’s much bigger and meaner by far. And if there were still any question, let's just say, he's proven it before.
But what I hate, is that he thinks he has a hold of my mind.
...Then, at this, my soul falters.
Who am I kidding.
Come on, Eden. He’s had a hold of your mind since Day One.
“I said do you HEAR me.”
“I’m going to pull my hand away reeeal slow. If you scream, if you so much as fucking say a word, you’re dead. You understand? This gun will FUCKING go off tonight.”
I am faint and can barely offer him eye contact to show that I understand.
His hand loosens just enough for me to answer him. I tilt my head slightly up, then down. My eyes try hard stay locked on his. His are cold, but not lifeless. They look like they're lit from within by a black fire.
My heart leaps in protest, feels like it will explode right out of my chest.
But then finally, slowly, soooo ever slowly... relief comes.
He slides his hand away. Painstakingly. He presses into the contours of my face as he goes, as if to stay as close as he can, for as long as he can.
Ever the Don Juan, even when he is killing someone...
And then there it is. Oh! So glorious! Cool, fresh, amazing air!
But no, wait. He is not done teaching me this lesson. He puts his hand back over my mouth and nose again, once, release... twice, release...
He is reminding me that he can take my breath away again, any old time he wants.
And then finally, his fingers come away from my face.
I don't run.
I don't fight.
I can think of nothing but relief.
He is the God of the Air, and I am his prize, his toy, his meaningless plaything.
He has let me live, but he's not sure whether I deserved to. I am never sure anymore either.
Does this mean that I owe him my life?
My head spins with the dizzying awareness that I feel grateful to this creature.
And yet I am. Because for the second time in my twenty-two years on this planet, I have been given the gift of breath.
For now. But still...
(to be continued)