Updated: Sep 12
I can feel every ridge in the calluses of his fingers pressed into my nose, my lips, 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 breath is hot in my face. “Don’t… fucking… say, a WORD. You hear me you little bitch?”
I try to nod. I realize the back of my head is pressed too close against the metal of my trusty blue Volkswagen Fox. Passenger side. I can’t nod, I can’t answer him, I can’t breathe.
Randomly, I feel a sudden sense of loss, in the touch of the metal of my car. I feel a bruise forming. Somehow I know this is the last time I will connect with this car. I find it strange that it’s with my skull.
I think these thoughts. My body struggles.
And then, involuntarily, I relax, as if giving up and conserving whatever energy is left. Perhaps this is to fuel my brain, to be sure I’m awake for my own death?
"Goddamit you nosey, fucking, bitch!! How the fuck did you end up seeing that gun." I know he knows how. It was because he hid it in the trunk of my car. He has a key, of course, and stops by my store all the time, taking my car at his leisure.
He must have used it as a getaway car. I saw the 22 pistol wrapped up in a towel when I went to grab my stuff out of the trunk earlier tonight. And earlier this week, I overheard him and his friends bragging about a deli they had robbed up on the mountain.
And now the evidence is pressed into my right temple.
My eyes go wide.
My lungs involuntarily try to suck in, but once again come up tight against his palm. I find a tiny trickle of air but he quickly closes it off again.
He is the God of the air, and he has chosen to end me.
“You hear me??”
My eyes are wild on his. How can I convey the message? Please, fuck, please!
The cold metal of the gun presses harder.
My eye begins to sting and a tiny 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 realization 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 if there's still any question, let's just say he's proven it before.
But what I hate, is when he thinks he has a hold of my mind.
...And 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 fuckin’ 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 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 and catches in protest, it feels like it will explode right out of my chest.
Slowly, relief comes.
He slides his hand sideways, carefully, painstakingly. He presses against 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 me...
There it is. A slight stream of cool, fresh air! But no, wait. He continues to take his time. He is reminding me that he can take that air away again, any old time he wants.
And then his fingers come away from my face.
Instead of trying to run, instead of trying to fight... I can think of nothing but the relief I feel.
He is the god of air, and I am his precious creation; he has let me live, does this mean I owe my life to him? My head spins with the dizzying awareness that I am somehow automatically grateful to this creature.
And yet I am. Because I’m alive.
For now. But still.
I’m alive. I have air.
For the second time in my twenty-two years on this planet, I have been given the gift of breath.