Breathing The Air

We sit together like this every week, him and I, and talk about it all. It has been almost eight years now since life fell apart for him, a slow motion and steady devastation.

Hour by hour, we seek to understand, together, always together, the needle that went in his arm, the fall from grace, the trust that cracked wide open like lightening through a tree, and never quite came back.

Who knows if we ever are really whole again? Or if we ever really were whole to begin with?

There is simply the showing up, the laying out of the pieces, the looking at the way a broken heart beats, until the shame stops seeping through. Until the light makes the shadows a tad less less terrifying, because we are not alone.

And then comes a day when he comes in like any other day, telling me stories of the trip he took to far off places that I will likely never go. And what he remembers most, he says, his voice quiet, remembering, is the air. How there was something different about the air. It was softer somehow, like he was  feeling and breathing the atmosphere for the first time in seven decades.

In his words, I felt the air just as he did, and closed my eyes, opened my lungs, to feel it a little longer.

We have worked years for this one moment, I thought. For him to notice and breathe in a way that was full, whole-hearted, alive. Finally alive.

I never knew until then that this is how you rebuild a life.