Actual Air

My lungs

are so full of expectations

that I have forgotten what oxygen tastes like.

But I believe that, someday,

I will be breathing Actual Air.


I have wasted half a life choking on unwritten rules:

like pink, hate football,

say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’,

even when you don’t want what your asking for,

and aren’t grateful for what you’re getting.


I threw out my toy cars,

and for what?

So I could fit into the box that was chosen for me

when I was two days old and my parents realized:

Shit. We need a better plan.


Now that I’m older, and a little bit wiser,

you can call me Nick, and I won’t flinch.

I promise.

I’ll call you…Sarah, and wait expectantly

for the name to spread out across the broad expanse of your chest,

settle in, and make a home for itself there.


For Christmas, I’ll buy you a barbie doll,

you’ll buy me a toy car,

and everyone will think we’re so strange

for refusing to accept that we can only ever be what we’re made,

for believing we have some say in the making,

that we get to choose who we want to keep,

and admit to what we wish we hadn’t cast aside,

like the teddy bears we both supposedly outgrew,

but still couldn’t quite let go of.


In ten years, we’ll find them in the attic,

cry tears like spiderwebs, that latch onto everything,

but aren’t noticeable until you’re already in the thick of them.

We’ll make excuses for that sentiment.

It’s all this dust, we’ll say. It’s suffocating.


We keep transitioning – like clouds and stars;

we always waver for a moment on the outer edge of sight

uncertain if we’re ready yet to be seen,

wondering if we look more like daydreams or cottonballs,

if we’re flying or falling,

and if anyone is going to notice, either way.


I want to tell you that I am a success story in progress,

that the only reason no one has noticed yet is that I’m not finished,

and I won’t be until I am breathing actual air,


until I am breathing actual air, you won’t hear me.

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