The best way to tell what kind of person someone is isn’t in their eyes, or their demeanor - it’s in the sound of their breath. It’s when you’re able to hear a person’s breathing that you can tell exactly who they are and what they’re capable of - the eager panting of a child at play, the forceful puffing of an athlete breaking his limits. The sound of ecstasy as two lovers’s gasps echo in sync. The controlled breathing of a predator closing in for the kill. The defeated sigh of a man strained to the very edge of his wire.
I was never told this directly; booming laughter gave way to wistful sighs in the night as my father waxed nostalgic to a friend in the patio, my presence unnoticed as I lay still on that beat-up couch underneath the open window, the warm night breeze and my snuffling breaths belying my overactive mind and prying ears. I could hear him chuckling deeply as he shared this philosophy of sorts to his friend, pausing to guzzle and snort out his half-pint as his friend amusedly shared his own lewd story of gasping lovers.
And then that sigh. That defeated, tired sigh of my father’s. At that moment I could feel his gaze towards me, directly upon me, and I shuddered though the night was warm. I squeezed my eyes shut and listened no more, trying to shut out the thoughts circling in my young, slightly manic mind.
Because if the best way to read a person was through the sound of his breathing, what could my dad read in mine? What could he, hell, what could the world see in a boy with an overly large head stuffed with airy ideas and weighty imaginings? What kind of person could belong to those congested, asthmatic gasps of a child just barely clinging to reality?
Because even then, at such a young age, I had a fear that my father, like most people, had given up trying to understand my eccentric habits and strange ways. Even then, I wondered, like I do now, if I’d be alone by myself, never able to understand these thoughts swirling around like a strange current of air whistling in my head, the sound of which would eventually drive me mad.