I hold my breath. Hold it in. It’s what I have to do. To keep all the painful emotion inside. All the disgusting yuck inside. Inside where it must stay. To inhale…to exhale…both would give me away. Both would allow everyone to see my defects. My brokenness. The “yuck” that is me. So I hold my breath. I hold it all deep down in the depths of me. Where it can’t escape inadvertently.
I hold my breath to keep from confirming everyone’s suspicions. They know I am not like them. They sense I’m different. A different species. Alien. They suspect there are things inside of me that aren’t inside of them. Ugly things. Dark things. Things that need to be held in, never shared, that should never see the light of day.
I hold my breath because I’m not sure I deserve air. I’m not sure I am worthy to partake. That I have done enough to earn the right to breathe.
I hold my breath because I am afraid. Of everything. I wait, cringing inside, for the blow that is sure to come. And I am afraid because I don’t know if I will be able to survive the next one. I’m afraid because I’m not sure I will want to survive the next one. I’m afraid of what the next blow will cost me. For I am sure the price will be too high for me to pay, even if I find I want to pay it.
I hold my breath and smile. Acting as if all is well. Pretending to be who I was supposed to be, but will never be because that person didn’t survive her childhood. Walking dead woman…can’t let it show. Some secrets are not meant to be revealed. Not ever. So, I hold my breath. Hold it in. Even as it explodes inside of me.
I hold my breath and perform to the best of my ability. Try to be good enough. Try to do enough. Try to do it all without breathing. Without bothering anyone. Without causing ripples or stirring the still, silent air. Never daring to relax enough to cautiously take a tiny, simple breath. A sip. Never daring to let down my guard. To let my mask slip. To allow my fractures to show for even a second.
I hold my breath so I won’t offend unduly. For I have come to understand, by simply existing, I offend. I am a freak of nature. Unspeakable. Horrible. If I hold my breath, I can almost remain invisible. If I hold my breath, I can be a ghost.
I hold my breath because I’m not at all sure I deserve to live. Nor am actually I sure I am still alive. Dead things, you see, do not need air. They can’t perish without it because they no longer require it to survive. So, I have come to wonder if I’m holding my breath because I have finally died. If the time for breathing has passed me by. If I can finally exhale. And finally let everything I have been hiding and holding in place for so many years…quietly go.