She is small in her movements, stilted somehow, as though this portion of her life is a series of badly-drawn flip-book pages, run sloppily against the thumb of the artist. She moves, but without fluidity, thin fingers pulling books by shoulder blades from their shelves. Her dark eyes scan the book jackets’ reverses, looking for reasons, and finding none, she settles, hoping within the words she holds are the words she needs. She flips blindly through pages, contents herself with the inked-scent emanations, lines the books up by size against the flesh and crook of her arm.
With her free hand, she reaches into her pocket for her library card, on which is printed her name and a long series of numbers, which further identifies her.
Staring into the glossy black of the card, Jane is overly aware of her breathing, the way in which the utmost of inhalation meets resistance. This awareness arrives more frequently these days, and she can’t be certain if it is her breathing that has changed or merely her attention to the details of existence; perhaps what now feels like labored effort has only been re-labeled; perhaps she breathed like this as she ran across the playgrounds of her childhood. Perhaps all that makes up youth is the taking of things for granted.
With appreciation comes age.
She stands very still, curled slightly into herself, and assigns each of her next 14 breaths a single digit of her library-card number, which further identifies her.
Once, Jane knew a woman, who, on the advice of doctors, had a balloon inserted and then inflated within her stomach so as to trick her body into weight loss. What had captivated Jane at the time was the imagined thought of the doctor inflating the balloon with words, whispered exhalations forced through a tube to hold back another’s hunger. Even though she knew that wasn’t how the procedure worked, Jane had wanted to know the words held within. At night, she had dreamt of embracing this woman, of holding her so tightly the balloon popped and the pressured words flew upward and paused within the emptiness of the woman’s mouth, waiting for lips to part so they might again be spoken, and in her dreams, Jane had pressed her ear to the other woman’s mouth, listening for the message that held back greedy wanting … and then, always, she woke, into unknowing continued.
She hugs her selections to her body now, against the intake of another sketch of breath, wondering, if she could rupture the resistance within, what words might be released, what she might say.
A thumb riffles the pages of a dog-eared notebook, and she moves stiffly to the counter to check out her books and then … she disappears.
So much depends upon the persistence of vision.