the lost man chronicles
69. the big O

Breath, breathing, fresh air. O. Of all of the elements we need most to live, this is the one we least can do without. Yet, it is the vital source overlooked. The mighty Big Kahuna that we forget to address our prayers to every minute of our lives. We can survive without water and nourishment for a number of days till we wither away, but take oxygen from us and we are gone within minutes, for some of us—seconds. When people are asked to profile the short-list of the items they cannot do without, some cite a precious keepsake, a favorite novel or album, or the Bible (perhaps, not in NYC). The more witty of we insolently give a glib answer like "water, food, sex and money." Most everyone forgets air. It is perhaps the most pervasive element in our elementary existence, yet it also happens to be the one we take for granted most.

If you contract asthma you immediately have a better understanding of how precious of a commodity air truly is. The frightening closing of bronchial tubes incites an exponential fear that has you fighting for your last breath—in the worst cases quite literarily.

Even though air is the great intangible it is invisibly apparent all around us. It is the force upon which wings glide upon, for both little birds and big birds, some which carry hundreds of people and weigh more than 90 tons. It is the whistle which we hear as it performs "love is in the air" through spring trees. It is the breeze that soothes us after vigorous lovemaking on a hot summer half-day. It is the holy hand that holds up sprite kites which delight with succinct and swirling simplicity, playfully monopolizing our attention. It is the nemesis in the morning, the regular customer's usual coffee breath you dread to face in the afternoon, and perhaps the dirty-dog breath which unconditionally laps you when you return home at night. It is the absence you yearn for most on a rakishly humid day in New York. It is the thumb pressing ocean waves and the fingers streaming ripples across the lake. It is the waft that sweeps our imagination as we resign to relaxation in the shade. It is what made historical discovery possible, carried industrial exploitation everywhere and ushered Manifest Destiny across the Seven Seas. It is the tease of slow death offered by a lover when she whispers "follow me" to tickle your ear. It is the benevolent messenger of nostalgic scent and a perfume bent on enticing you. It is the patriotic spirit, the sine qua non by which nations are formed and revitalize pride proclaiming the banner still waves through the air. In essence, in reality, in truth, quite evidently—air is everywhere and pervasive to everything.

A lover and I once exchanged one last breath, via sucking kisses undulating a predetermined gasp till it was gone. It was an invigorating whim of intimacy, both keenly symbolic and poignantly real, an act of both stealing life and unselfish bonding that surprised me when I realized that I had never thought of pursuing before, one which I presume few other lovers have ever imagined to enact together as well. By sharing this gulp of gaseous existence we not only formed a rare trust, but we also exchanged a sacred vow, the acclamation that we must cherish each other for as long as we breath, almost as if we believed each other to be sustaining air itself.

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