I tell my attendants,
When they rub me where it itches.
They rub for a few seconds, then move on,
There’s so much of it to wash,
“It” being me, a former person,
Now something that must be washed every day
In so little time.
Fifty minutes outside my breathing machine,
And all I can do is stare
As my breath recedes like the woman
Who would not love me.
It’s almost over,
I say over and over to myself
As soon as the machine is turned off.
An idiotic mantra perhaps,
But it helps when the ache descends into my eyes
And my words quit coming out right.
Left hand, I say.
Right foot? the attendant says, guessing.
I begin to fantasize about gusts of air
Rushing down my windpipe with hurricane force.
Garish and impossible, they’re respiratory porn.
My re-entry is stalled
By the attendant straightening a sheet
That no one will see.
Enraged, I squeeze my eyes closed.
Once back in and turned on,
I cough violently and with conviction.
Shocked by the force of the inrushing air,
I feel my lungs expand like birthday balloons,
My terror-flattened mind pops up into 3-D,
As I return to the land of breathing.