Breath & Shadow

A Journal of Disability Culture and Literature





Only years later you told me. When it could change
nothing. You used the word "perfect".

It was early May several springs ago; we weren't
dating — or so we told ourselves. I invited
you to the opening of my group photography
show, where my bit of wall hosted a set of self–portraits
titled "chronic fatigue girl dreams of flying".
I waited for you for hours outside the bustling gallery
— filled with noise & perfume, short on oxygen —
a swift flutter of hope & wonder in my
breasts, my toes shyly flirtatious in the high
sandals I wore just for you. It was only
when you arrived that I went inside, mingled
like I was supposed to, simulated enjoyment for
half an hour. Then we tiptoed away together;
I carried my happiness like a thin–shelled egg
as we walked for miles talking, ending up at
a small café where we were warm and
unhurried and for a time forgot we were not two
ordinary girls pretending to not be dating. It was
the young womon mopping the floor who
reminded us. As the liquid bleach hit the floor
— and a second later, the air — my wide panicked
eyes met yours and, barely talking to minimize breathing,
we grabbed our bags and ran for the door. And when
the two of us stood safe & gasping in the cold
darkness outside, I discovered the twist and the wonder
of my body, our bodies, and felt a spidersilk belonging.
I saw us freakish & ill & beautiful & strong.

And in the moments before the stench of chlorine
— a fire alarm gong shrilling in our brains —
drove us outside where I choked through
an asthma attack and you stood with me, not frightened
or appalled but calm matter–of–fact comforting, even as
you too were struggling with the thick wash of
poison in your blood, and my eyes hung on your face,
drenched butterflies slowly drying their wings on
a generous leaf, and in between ragged
grasping breaths & convulsed coughing like
trying to spit my lungs out, I wanted to
kiss you so much my lips heated and
bloomed plump, my hips unspooled like honey,
my ripe body even now, especially now,
chanting its will to live — before all this, before
the dark–haired young womon, likely tired and
badly paid, brought out the sloshing bucket
& a heavy mop — you & I were sitting
at a tiny table for two and I was drinking
peppermint tea (the only semi–safe thing
on the menu), and you — reverse–osmosed water,
and we were talking talking talking, our bodies
breathing secret messages in our each lip–shape,
and I was soft, slow, dream–eyed, warm, my shoulders
drenched in my very own sunlight,
my alveoli rounded with tenderness and the
deep certainty that you were the One —
and you were, you told me years later,
thinking: This is perfect.

I was dreaming of bridging the air between us: fingers
like light filaments on your cheek, lips against
satin lips, your mink hair spilling across my hand & face,
breathing you in like trees, warm & finely veined
— and you were thinking Perfect.

And it was.

Kamila Rina is a Jewish lesbian femme, a passionate ecofeminist, and a survivor of torture & the child sex trade. She believes that her disabilities — which include environmental illness and a muscle/nerve condition that restricts the use of her arms — result from violence–related physical & emotional injuries and from exposures to toxins & environmental pollution.

Tell us what you think about this author's work or about this month's issue in general. Email: breathandshadow@aol.com

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