"I took a deep breath and listened to the old bray of my heart: I am, I am, I am."
- Sylvia Plath
She was 10 the first time it happened. So delighted that she'd managed to catch, and hang on to, the ball, that she forgot to run.
A crushing blow, and then she was on the ground, looking up at a sky so incredibly blue that she wondered if it had always been so. There was no pain, then, only the shadow of it crouching close by; her entire being was fixed on her next breath, which would not come. Is there any other feeling to compare? Time, the most slippery of our perceptions, expands to infinity when the body cannot draw breath. We hover somewhere on the brink of reality, everything else ceases to matter, and the world as we know it is now of no consequence. Once experienced, it is something that we never want to feel again, and know we will never forget.
And so she lay there, eyes fixed on the circle of faces which had now appeared above her. They wore concerned expressions, their lips moved, but their words were lost somewhere on the way down. She wanted to say something, anything; but it proved impossible. There was nothing to do but wait. Alone.
Finally, it arrived, one shuddering gasp, and with it a cacophony of sound and suffering. She struggled to her feet, brushing off the assistance of others, pasting a smile on her face and walking off, albeit shakily, to take stock of the damage by herself. She would not cry.
Thirty years later, and here she is again, trapped in that forever moment. Once again, it comes. One breath. Then another. She will walk away from this as well. She will not cry.
She hangs up the phone. And she cries.