1620 c/o Emma J Lannie

Making Oxygen

I’d have it a different way.

I’d have it just the two of us.

And I know it doesn’t work without the oarsmen, and it’s cool that he’s made them wear blindfolds and all, but if it were up to me there would be just me and him. I like the idea of that. I don’t need for this to be moving to be impressed by it.

He has eyes so dark and in this light they look almost black. He holds the pan above the flame and I feel a clearness in my lungs, like the air around him is different, better. I let him kiss me but only for a while. His lips taste of juniper berries. His mouth is wet. And all I can think of are the twelve other men down here, rowing blindly, their ears attuned to every single breath. I can’t let my breathing get heavy, or quick, or slow, deep. My breathing has to be just breathing. Not the breathing of the kissed or the kissing.

On land, we are barely ever together. It’s hard to be in the same space when that space is the whole world. Here, under the water, in this tiny enclosed thing, he can look me in the eye and make it mean that I am his and that he is mine. Even with the heads of the twelve other men bobbing to the left and right of us, working those oars, even then, he can make me feel like it would be okay to do things with him. And I don’ t do things with him. But a part of me wants to, a part of me has been made to not care what the other people might think.

He tips the pan and its contents swirl and he tips it again, the other way, and I watch. I watch his hands. The way his fingers grip the handle, like he could let go at any minute. As though the holding on is no effort. There have been nights when he’s held me that same way, with an unknowable ease, and I’ve felt safe, felt that there would be no letting go.

I was afraid of the water. Of it getting in. Of being trapped and no one knowing we were down here, no one knowing the water was inside as well as outside. That the river would leak in, and still be the river, but be the river inside our lungs. And it would displace all our oxygen. But still I let him bring me down here. It was something to face.

He slips his hand to my neck, his thumb slowly tracing a line down and back up again, lifting my face to his. I open my mouth. He kisses me again. The men row. They can’ t see anything. I am quiet. I am barely breathing.

In the world, this doesn’t happen.

In the world, he has his life and I have mine.