A Deep Breath (Short Story)

Of all the people in all the world she never dreamed that she would be in his arms again. It had been 35 + years since she had said or even heard his name, though she had thought of him often throughout the years. She remembered that flirtatious smile, his flawless, smooth skin and the way he moved; slow but with a rhythmic gait as if he measured each and every step. She remembered his laugh and his dry sense of humor and she remembered those eyes, eyes that told the stories of his life and loves. She curled herself deep inside the curves of his body and counted his breath as he slept.

He knew in his heart and his head that he should not reach out to her, but something in his soul prompted him to revisit her page day after day. He tried to think about their last conversation
or encounter but could not recall the day or the time or even the place. He could remember her smile and her loud contagious laugh, he remembered the soft feel of her, and recounted every

curve of her petite body. He remembered long talks and slow kisses and the way she bit her lip when she was thinking, but he could not remember their last conversation, on this he was Empty. And this emptiness made it difficult for him to think or breath, so he slowly typed “So glad I found you”, inhaled deeply and hit “send”.

Her days were filled with people, choices, causes, laughter and the occasional breath of fresh air. She loved color, and words and smiles and textures and smooth jazz. Her husband loved her, sports, parts and pieces, R&B and sultry love ballads. Their relationship at its best was wonderful and at its least, comfortable. They had met in a time in her life when she needed someone loving and kind, someone free of pretenses and hidden agendas, someone who was compassionate and strong. She found that in him. Their love for one another was mutual and had manifested daily throughout the years; always a kind word, a soft reassuring hug or just a smile. She loved and appreciated him and felt safe in knowing that he felt the same about her. She promised to marry him and she did and he swore he would love and protect her for as long as life was in them.

So when she opened her iPad and saw a FB message from someone who had disappeared from her life almost a lifetime ago she quickly closed it and closed her mind and closed her very soft heart to the thought of ever responding to the message. But, she could not stop thinking about him, nor the words he posted ” So glad I found you” and she could not stop thinking about how she once loved him. But she knew that of all the people and all the things she needed in her life, this man certainly was not one of them. They had parted ways which seemed a lifetime ago in a manner in which she nor he ever understood.

They loved each other hard, but there was always some thing or some person or some word that made it difficult for them to see the wonderful possibilities of “us”. So they parted without good byes or I hate yous’, no tears or yelling, no apologies or hugs or pushes , no ” we should just be friends” or rants or tantrums. She tried to remember “the end” but there was no dramatic ending, there was Nothing. And this nothingness made it difficult for her to breath or think, so she quickly typed “So glad to be found”, took a deep breath and hit “send”.

He hung the phone up with his doctor and slowly inventoried his life; images of places and faces rapidly moved in out of his consciousness. He thought of all his triumphs and successes, his
false starts and regrets, and all the “I’m sorry’s” he should have said. In the last couple of years he had begun to think of himself as old, but now he thought that 63 years was not enough time to start and finish anything. So he “hit” the calendar app on his phone and quietly counted the days and months and the hoped for years. He checked his FB page and smiled as he read “So glad to be found” and messaged her quickly before he lost time or his nerve.

After 2 years of daily texts, cards, gifts, doctors, prayers , fights , laughter and long quiet phone calls , they found themselves in a place where neither one of them had planned or wanted to be. One of them said “I have loved you half of my life” and the other said “I know”. They vowed to be in each other’s life for 20 more years, and someone added “I will love you for as long as there is breath in me”.
He opened his eyes and looked down at her as she laid enveloped in his arms. He smiled and kissed her gently on her forehead; she moved unapologetically closer and pressed her warm body deep against his thighs. This was familiar; he remembered holding her like this before.

He was not surprised by the sweet aroma of brown sugar and cinnamon as he laid his head in the chaos of curls on his pillow. He remembered her pouty lips, her almost lash-less eyes and a nose that covered quite a bit of her small face. He had dreamed about being lost inside of her, loving and holding her, smelling and tasting her; and now after all the years of needing and wanting her, he felt an overwhelming need… to be still.

She slowly opened her eyes and found herself being canvassed by his soft but wandering eyes. She breathed in deeply and wondered how long she could hold her stomach in before she would self-implode. She knew there were a thousand things to love about her but felt anxious about the weight she had gained in the last years of her life. Of course he said it didn’t matter, but to her it did, so she continued to pull in her soft, spongy stomach in toward her spine. He felt her anxiousness and took her hand in his and kissed it, and then he softly kissed on her forehead, her breast and her round, spongy middle. He placed his head on her belly and she slowly relaxed as she breathed in the aroma of him and her. The years of wanting him deep inside her dissipated and she felt an overwhelming need… to be still.

He paused and thought about the finality and sureness of their lovemaking. The miles and the years between them had lessened and they knew that the daily posts, texts, messages and long, quiet phone calls had ushered them to this point. Without conversation they wrapped themselves around themselves and silently agreed to be still. He whispered “20 more years, baby”.

She smiled and used her hands to “catch” the warmth and vibrations of his breaths and cupped them around her nose and mouth and inhaled slowly and deeply. He knew he did not have 20 more years. She knew his breaths were numbered, so she counted each….. and every one……

Yvette Chatman
Literacy & Curriculum Coordinator
Birmingham Civil Rights Institute
205 328 9696 ext. 249

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