Every Breath You Take

“Have you ever really marveled at taking a breath?” he asked.

I sniffed the air. It smelled like coffee and wet cement. “No?”

“Consider it for a moment. You’re breathing in the stuff that lets you live. Without it, without those inhales, you’d die.”

I breathed. I mean, of course I was breathing before, but only now was I paying attention. I felt the air come in, pass into my body, and held it for a moment. I nodded. “Sure. Tastes good.”

“Does it, though? If you’ve never thought about it before, how would you know the good air from the bad?”

“It’s kind of obvious, isn’t it? Like, you know when you’re smelling shitty air.”

“It’s obvious when it’s obvious, sure. Like the difference between a sunny day and a cloudy day are very apparent. But just as you wouldn’t be able to detect small changes in temperature on a hot day, so you wouldn’t be able to tell if there were subtle agents in the air around you.”

I took another focused breath and tried to separate out the different smells. I tried to discern the texture of the air, and since he’d mentioned temperature, I wondered if what I was breathing was hot or cold or what. He grinned at the look of concentration on my face.

“It’s going to take a bit more practice than that, and sure, over time you may notice changes and qualities. But you’ll only ever smell the broad stokes on the canvas around you. It’s the microcosmic differences that matter. The toxins and nutrients. The biological agents. The living things that crawl into you and find purchase, carried with each inhale into the very depths of your system.”

I grimaced. “Maybe it’s for the best that I can’t feel that sort of thing.”

“Maybe it is,” he agreed. “But it’s something to think about, isn’t it? Why aren’t we so finely tuned, and what secrets are being passed back and forth between us right this very minute, carried on the very breaths we’re trading?”

2014.08.22 – 2023.04.19

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