"Breathless beauty". Forget that it's about death, for a moment, and think only about the beauty. I wanted to be admired, and everything alive about me was not desirable, sweat, tears, ragged exhale and shuddering inhale, and so I eliminated them, one by one. The sweat, I mopped with a towel; how come no one else's face dripped? The sheen of tears, I spread across my face and called sweat; how come everyone else was laughing? And the breath, I stopped completely. It was already ugly, piggish, to be sweating so badly, and the labored breathing only made me look weaker.
The obsession started young. Everyone seemed to run so elegantly, and then there was me, slow and panting and clocking in their mile second to last. I watched, with my back curled and my hands on my knees, as the gym teacher yelled after the kid who had walked and griped for an entire mile. "It's so stupid! I don't want to run", the kid would say, and all I had wished was to not look stupid when my heart beat shamelessly out of my chest.
If I'm going to run, and if I have to be ugly about it, I want to run fast. I told the people in group therapy, a few days ago, that I believe relationships are transactional, and I believe, so too, is everything else. If you want a prize, you have to earn it. And I want the prize of running while holding my breath, and I want someone to clap for me. I know I'm listening for the applause after my self-destruction. I know I pine for the moment I can fake my surprise at the recognition of a job well done, and then hold my breath once more as I pretend to be taken aback by the trophy. All these beautiful, breathless, little deaths. The already anxiety-ridden therapy group looked appalled, and frankly, so was I, but no horror ever stops desire.
I want better gifts out of all the years I spent growing up and holding my breath. It's Christmas, it's my birthday, and my parents tell me to hold out my hands for the wrapped box before me. I close my eyes, breath bated, only to open what I hadn't known I didn't want. But they wanted me happy, so I tried to give it to them. Don't children like gifts? They're supposed to like gifts, right? But how does anyone ask for what they want? My brother says not to negotiate with terrorists; he tells me: run.