The Sight of Breath by A. Sass

When you think of water, what do you think of?



Do you think of a glass of water; watching little bubbles settling on the inside of the glass, perhaps one escaping to the surface traveling up the inner tube of the tumbler?



Or do you think of a refreshing waterfall crashing down as you dip your head under with a loved one, your feet catching balance on the jarring rocks, the water heavily cascading in a steady stream?

But as your head breaks the surface it splits, like iced curtains being drawn open as they divide at your crown – the parting of the sea, a baptismal stream for every contour of your body, cold and exhilarating. You can almost decipher individual entities of water over your own body but as you try to keep your eyes open to see them, the force of Her crushes your lashes closed.

You realize you can see your eyelashes for the first time, as they are thick and full of water. You fight it, just so they can greedily stay open long enough to glimpse at your lover, standing in front, over you, under the same weight of the world, looking back at you through the sheen, fighting the same fight with the smallest hairs on his body, but smiling a smile you will never not remember. The endurance was worth it. And for that moment, you are in paradise…



Or do you think of a still, silent expanse of cold – azure acrylic paint, thick on a canvas, flat and deep where the dark blue pigment splits into horizon with sky and air around it in so many hues of blue and grey that you cannot decipher where one ends and the other begins?

But this expanse is not the Ocean for it sits in time, not moving, nestled between steeping hills of the greenest pine you picked from a Cezanne, sledging down God’s land like a child running down a hill until his legs give way in excitement, tumbling to the lapping shore of this blue silent sleeper below.

The green cascading trees are not excited, but omnipotent, steady and existing quietly. The blue sits enveloped by these loving arms, protected from tide, waves, and anything that could change its living make up on both the surface and underneath. There is no current here.

The air surrounding such beauty is yours to touch, grey and round. As mist droplets separate on your skin, you are reminded that you are in fact alive, that this is an existing living moment, that this is today, and you are not an ornament standing inside a stagnant snow globe, unshaken for eternity…


I think of all of these things in the split second my eye lid blinks shut. A beautiful painting is lowered into my vision every time this small flap descends like a curtain in a theatre, to rest on my lower lid. And every time, I exhale gratitude into tangible spores around me.

As my chest lowers and gas exhales, the beautiful spheres of air come, tearing upwards across my face, rushing for the surface, ascending into heaven. They, too, remind me of a swarm of children rushing through the gates on the last day of school, rushing towards freedom and away from the solid brick of confinement behind them. Not only do I see these round balls of liquid air escaping, but I take the greatest pleasure in feeling the pitter-patter of their tiny invisible feet upwardly pimpling my skin.

The sound that accompanies the fall of my chest is mesmerizing – sullen and round, hypnotic and baritone like the gas from an oven before the flame is ignited. The allure of this sound and these bubbles tempt me to push deeper into myself to see how much reserve air is hiding within, and to test myself to see if mere I could push it out of my own accord, so that these two sacks are finally empty.

My precious blink is over. My eyes open fully, and yet the world I see around me is not of things and things and things made by man, and I am relieved. In this open blink, I am inside the algae blue-green Cezanne shown to me; floating but not afloat; suspended and not adrift. My smile is not restricted to the muscles on my mouth, but my whole body is consumed with the serenity and peace that this wonderful painting was created to instill in its viewer.

But I am not a viewer. I am inside this painting. I move my arm, and it flows in slow-motion staring back at me hanging within the ink. There is no sky above me and no earth below. I am living inside the sublime, away from the things and things and things atop the surface. But I realize this cannot last for these two humble sacks inside will not allow me to stay here long. Their ejector seat will ruin this picture at some point soon.

They close again to show me new images of beauty, of The Divine, but mostly to remind me they are still there in a blink of an eye if I want or need them. I know these blinks are not as fulfilling or lengthy upstairs. I know I need to stay here where peace is not an intangible noun to be spoken of, but a vast expanse one can live inside if you know how to get there. Why should I leave? I’ve arrived. I am welcomed. I am blessed. I am happy. Here.

As I breach the surface, harsh and violently, suddenly I am the terrible thing these mountains have eternally protected this lake from. I disturb the beautiful flat silken carpet, and I am the treacherous human that creates the terrifying current for this peaceful sleeping Lady.

These bubbles around me are no longer my angelic friends dancing with me below, but angry superiors breaking into waves at my disruption. The sound of my exhalation now is not a joyous male choir within my body, but a rasp, howling gasp. The freezing air outside this pool is determined to annihilate as it rushes forth into my open mouth, attacking the back of my throat with agonizing spears of oxygen. The waves crashing into my eyes are no longer those paradisiacal streams from the waterfall with my imagined lover, but forceful and angry, hell-bent on blinding me. Those beautiful arms I knew as passive eels floating beside me, flail for buoyancy and survival. Why do they suddenly desert me? Before they were content and grateful, and now they want to survive, relegated to the useless extremities they always were.

This cold; this bitter cold brutally carves up every pore on my skin to the point I truly believe that if I snap off my feet, and I’ve no doubt I could, it would be less painful than this cacophony of knives that are fiercely and relentlessly slashing into my skin.

Heaven need not be above me. Nor in the clouds. One day it will bury me with weight in gallons, this I am sure of. One day these useless sacks will not eject, and they will be as relieved as I to finally be empty, and for the weight to be gone. They will not feel the need to refill, and they will become my ally. They, too, will know how it feels to dance uninhibited below the celestial surface, dangling hopelessly inside Love. Waiting. They too will be eagerly grateful to feel the final slow breath of life rise and fall within me, escaping my enduring and decrepit soul.


A. Sass writes in an attempt to convey the imagined beauty that lies on the other side of life for those who have, at some point, wished it all away. He blogs at