For thirty-five years now I’ve been breathing

July 5, 2009

For thirty-five years now I’ve been breathing, steadily working my way towards that ultimate state of not-breathing. At night I often think about the act of breathing, or rather about the act of not being able to breathe. More accurately, it’s that I try not to think about the act, either of breathing or of not-breathing, but this sleep, which mysteriously seems to follow a strict routine only during the day, at night teases me, its caresses always cool and unhurried even as I grow agitated, and I can’t help but picture the mechanisms involved in being alive or in being dead. For the question of the breath, of life, is the same to me as the question of a higher (or lower) form of being—God, aliens, the Abominable Snowman: the thing likely exists when I’m awake, and not necessarily when I’m not awake. That is, in being conscious, in acknowledging the question of whether a thing exists, I am in a way believing in the thing, even loosely or figuratively; I have given it a reason for existence, which is to be thought of by me. I wonder, then, about the folly of sleep: if we were to all stay awake at the same time, how much more quickly can we heal ourselves through this illogic of faith? Still, life itself—breathing itself—cannot be denied. I am but a speck of a speck of a speck in the universe, after all, and my impact in the world is a mere flutter of a butterfly’s wing. It’s all too true. And here, in trying to unravel things so that the inevitability of not-breathing will be gentle and not a rude surprise, I find sleep only at four or five in the morning.

But asleep, I believe in only what my dreams inform me, which for the past thirty-five years have been the following: death by gunshot, flying with my arms, crawling across desert, recovering old friendships, being witness to the absurd, participating in the ridiculous, wondering at the decay of flesh, enjoying the pleasures of the flesh, reading and rereading, translating, writing backwards but never forward, breathing life, and thus death, into another human being.

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