breathing’s been difficult lately. the air is so cold and sharp. it rushes into my lungs crystallizing everything in its path. i’ve had wheezy but tolerable nights. i’ve had nights where the only hope to get any air in is by sitting in the bathroom running a hot shower. steam is a relief.
this creates a pattern of dysfunction. i can’t breathe in the cold so i don’t want to be in the cold. i take trains, cabs and busses instead of walking or riding my bike. makes sense but lungs need oxygen. lungs need blood pumping through veins to open fully. lungs require movement to function.
i don’t move. i can’t breathe. i’m a george lopez joke.
tonight, it started snowing. the chill in the air eased up.
snowflakes mean oxygen. oxygen means I can move.
i got off the train about 25-30 mins walking distance from my house. i walk slow. whatever. two paths in front of me: 1) straight, left, and then a steep incline or 2) continue forward, take on the incline immediately and then breeze along home.
forward ho. i trudged my chunky ass up one of the steepest hills in my neighborhood. slow moving, deep breaths, pulling in all of the air that i could to make up for weeks of wheezing.
made it to the top without using my inhaler. triumph, bitches. i was so fucking happy and pleased. this stupid big ass grin made itself comfortable on my face. teeth for days. chubby cheeked dimples for miles. kept walking and a young black dude approached me.
‘scuse me miss but why is your smile so bright?’
i waved him off. still couldn’t stop smiling. i didnt need my inhaler (!).
‘no for real, miss, i don’t mean any harm. share why you’re smiling with me, please.’ his jamaican accent placed him as a local boy; they call where i live Little Kingston.
i didn’t want to tell him because i was embarrassed. i didn’t want to say, “well i’m a weak-lunged, sickly, chubby woman that just walked up a hill that children run up and down all summer long and i’m proud of myself for that”. Also, all of my instincts tell me never to talk to strange men but he said “please” and called me “miss”.
explained the smile. he smiled back and congratulated me. we kept walking. his name was JJ. my name is gabby and i can’t ever think of a good enough lie so all the weirdos know my name.
‘gabby, now what would your boyfriend say about me walking with you right now?’
here we go…
‘my boyfriend would introduce himself’.
‘sounds like a good man’.
we kept walking together, almost shoulder to shoulder. quiet. snow falling. ambulance lights in the distance.
‘you know when me first came to new york from jamaica. me had no money, no job and no women for six months. then my man, he take me to find a woman. he says ‘ pay her twenty dollars’ and she’ll suck my dick.
deep quick breath. my cheeks flushed. it feels so weird and uncomfortable to hear these words from this dude’s mouth. the same mouth that just said “please” and called me “miss”. walking next to him felt different as the k sound clicked in my ear. dicKKKKKK. the reality of his dick and its ability to rape me became a thing. his rudeness became a thing. this man all of a sudden became a thing that made me want to throw up.
‘you know, that’s really not something i want to hear. have a good night’.
he walked faster than my fast so we walked in unison.
‘yeah but i want a good girl that doesn’t do all that dick sucking. i want a girl like you’.
the neighborhood blackened a bit. there’s this one part of sidewalk underneath the train tracks where all of the street lamps are out. also, most of that street is a chained up lumber yard. funny how low-income neighborhoods are zoned to be industrial and residential. who cares, right?
JJ stopped mid block.
‘ good night girl. get home safe. my boy lives right here. later’.
i nodded and kept walking. remembered the reason i was here, out on the block, to breathe so I inhaled. got to the corner of the pitch black block and my boy Denny rolled up in his cab.
‘heyyyy, girl, need a ride?’
fuck yes. something said get in. i hopped into Denny’s whip and as he spun a U-turn, we saw JJ. He paused in his steps, less than half a block from where I jumped into Denny’s cab. We met eyes. He abruptly turned around and walked in the other direction.
‘You know him?” Denny’s Jamaican accent sat between us, waiting for me to relax.
I explained everything, out of breath, feeling so so weird. Denny lit a cigarette.
‘Some men don’t know how to talk a damn way to women. they forget they have mothers and shit. If I see him, Imma bust him in his head for you, gal’.
got home, needed my inhaler. funny how the things men say can knock the wind out of you.