It's not truly snowing, my inhalations are labored…

So I collapse beneath you.

It seems so silly to begin a story on your knees, but that is where I have always been, cachinnated into a strange depiction of abstract shapes, and we are – or were – the cause of desolation; you sing it with such very high notes, lilting into the atmosphere, and, and... There is a falling, the initial blow; the abstract shapes are so much clearer from down here, the coy fish long gone.

I smile as your aging defies every image I've created of you, of laughter and of spite, a strange variety of hymns. I sway with you and you count, over and over, and you sink, and how you fall and fall and fall and laugh and sing and fall and -

- Seasonal deceptions become one with the courtyard.

The book is closed and she is on her way out of the door.


Mathematics have a way of perceiving all existence in a subtle nuance that only a few can understand, deciphering the hieroglyphics of honor roll text book pages, of The University of Chicago, or the burnt pencil lead that is more like a frankincense catharsis, ascending.

And it's strange, the odor of frustration wafting down the hallway. The chemical reaction of emotions can be measured in milliliters. Somehow lifting. Ashes rising before the phoenix.

"Do you sing?" they ask, and turn a page. Equations. Breathing: a passage long forgotten.

"Sometimes."

They always reach out for the leather bound book perched on the end of her desk, the corners curled halfway through, water marked inscriptions, fingerprints of bath water. She snatches it away, pages rustling. The picture frames in her bedroom are the perfect examples of wilting, glass flowers, petals plucked and placed together, a mockery of something reflec - their gazes meet – tive, because everything is so hard to see through.

He had an entry about that, somewhere.


February rolls off the tongue and April clots the throat like a bad cold. I've always skipped March. It's always in a hurry and far too authoritative. March – why not Stroll?

She laughs, smiling at the crinkled parchment.

Ah, but your birthday is in March, so perhaps I ought not to hurry. My mind has lessened all responsibility of late. Be thankful, because by tearing your month out of the calendar, I have averted all mathematical certainties, and spared you the dreadfulness of age.


She skips back to the March he skipped himself, skipping, skipping – it's like a game. The courtyard is a menagerie of Snow, and the coy fish pretend they are dolphins, too blissful and healthy for a drab shade of gray, too rebellious to mirror the rock. She looked up at him. He smiled. The side of his hand was smeared with black ink.

"Another journal entry?"

He tossed a smile her way. "But of course."

His words fall like pins dropping as she slides a response across the ice, gazing at the giant, circular fountain, something he had probably crafted himself after years of self inflicted solitude – but it wasn't, not really. The solitude. He had company every day. The neighbors were fond of him, of his estate, the mystery of it, the trapping of iron wrought gates, and he would forget to write about their faces in his diary, the sepia swirls of the things he did not want to forget.

Just skipping them over, she supposed.

His gaze brightened, pen whipping out of his pocket, another story fabricated within a world of silent films, scratch scratch scratching into the leather bound book. "Do you know what they call 'Snow' in Russia?"

She laughed, rubbing her arms along the outside of her body, a careless whisper of white, the fountain spouting gulps of slush from its faucets like moist confectionary sugar. "No. What?"

"Oxygen."


Deep seated harmonies come from the lightest of impressions, and writing, like soap, washes away.

Her feet flood the parlor, thudding over floorboards, circumventing the – It's not truly Snowing, and I collapse beneath – cursive writing, weaving about them, just as winding, until she found him on the floor, scribbling out words. Change of perspective, kind of like March. Finding something that he'd over looked.

"Things appear different on my knees."

Her eyes widened at his pale skin – she gripped a blanket, covering him in a green and red flannel, blocking out the air, covering the journal entry before she could read it. The pages were a crisp, new white, another notebook almost completely filled up. "Take a deep breath."

The mint pages crinkle as shakes his head, and whispers, "I'll be alright."


So long ago, something tumbling out of recognition. She had forgotten the refrain. And ages, the will of them, the exploration, take deep breaths toward the end of each year because it is the only time they are allowed Oxygen.

Last Will and Testament.

The pages of her inheritance are sepia brown, cracks of handwriting mirroring her hands, torn around the edges, tea stained with the time he promised to skip over, Strolling into her seventy fifth birthday, the day when he just couldn't be alright.

Written in the back of the journal, he scribbled his most precious commodity, what had filled his lungs by that fountain, falling around him, in that jaggedly looping expression of ink, what he was leaving behind for her to keep.

Oxygen.


Her smile is a tattered expression like an old lace curtain, light whirring in out of each hand crafted loop, illuminating the flowers like hail, a deeper understanding – he was here, everywhere, in this house, in this world, but an underlying calm had kept him from sleeping.

She stepped toward the court yard, away from the rest of the funeral guests, his casket like a trophy case – displaying him, in all of his ancient perfection as the sun burned away all possibility of Snow. A few steps passed the shrubbery, over the buds of crocuses, to the base of that gargantuan, circle monstrosity with the make believing coy fish.

A single step into the water. A deep breath she could not take. Lower, lower, sinking lower, bending at the knees, letting the water climb up her body as the chill reached about chest level – kneeling now, things look so different, Stroll is now Sprint – and these moments are the torn out pages of the calendar.

The water level rises above her neck, and she turns over to face the sky.

"What are you doing?" They demand, lips forming the words, her white hair flooding in front of her eyes, looking so much like a blizzard of old age, tendrils of pearl, sinking downwards…

And as she casts her eyes away, the clouds bursting their powder over the looming dirge she used to scream, the courtyard deceptions - Do you know what they call snow in Russia? – becoming phrases, a single snowflake pads upon the water, ripples, is followed…

Was she truly suffocating?

Drowning?

Ah, but no…


I have written it clearly; a whole new fantasy. Your age is but a metaphor in a world I've completely drained dry. You saw me once, asking if I could breathe, my coughs tearing my chest into equal parts. I could taste the blood on my words as I told you I was feeling well, well enough to write, well enough to inhale because winter was so filled with Oxygen.


She parts her lips, bubbles down pouring in a different direction than the weather, kissing the shreds of watery lace, debating who allowed the lungs to function more as she says…


You were always my favorite character in my stories, never aging, never dying, always drawing the lightest increments from the reservoir.

"Just breathe," I write, and the water is lined with a table cloth from the frosty, unforgiving lion who marks the beginning of a leisurely Stroll - it appears my humor has survived the cold, surfacing even now, if only to watch the final dissipation.

The sky is a mystery we'd always wrongly guessed at. Something… Beyond us now, past us, ungainly – is it clear in these entries? With water slowly flooding the edges of your vision, wicking through the gaps of your eyelashes to preserve your mind within me, I draw a once furtive respiration, finally permitted this action --

And you say, without the slightest pretense of a guess,

"… I am breathing."