One Last Deep Breath
By Flavia-Ioana Tofan
Dear you know who,
I am on the top of The Mountain in a small snowstorm. It is quiet… finally, it is quiet. The snow absorbs sound, which means that it brings silence into the world. Sometimes, I wish it would snow in my mind as well, or in my soul. I sit down on the cold white blanket. I am by myself here. My snowboard, still bound to my feet, is my only companion. The visibility is very low. I cannot see anything further than 5 metres away. Everything is white. It is like a veil covering my eyes and giving a touch of purity over everything that my sight can comprehend.
Should I be afraid? One could wonder how it would be possible to go down the slope without going off track. Still, what keeps me up here is the peace that I feel, not the fear. For the first time in a while, I feel like… like I can breathe. In this silence, my shallow breaths cannot be heard. But why are my breaths shallow? I am by myself here, hugged by snow. There is nothing to be afraid of this far away from everything. I can breathe in deeply and… breathe out without worry. It is a conscious action. I feel every movement that my body is doing during this exercise. Tears start forming and falling down my cheeks. I cannot stop them; I can only feel them. I am focused on my deep breathing. The cold air is filling my lungs and, I give in return tears and warm breaths. I take off my ski mask and my helmet. Where my tears fall, the snow melts. I close my eyes.
My mind tends to form unclear images that make me nervous. They tend to come as a wave to shatter me into pieces. But I am up here and they cannot touch me. I am focusing on my deep breaths. The darkness that I see with my eyes shut becomes softer. There is a new image that starts coming to life. I see a field full of green grass and colourful flowers. I am sitting against a tree with branches that are sometimes touching the ground and other times hugging me. I hear a laughter so clear and pure. I am not afraid or alone. There is a girl that rises from the tall grass.
She comes towards me. She wears short sleeves and some long green pants. She runs into my arms. She is so light and her laughter does not stop. She touches my face and, with her thumb, she wipes away the tears that keep falling. She has a certain light around her that I cannot place. She messes with my short hair and I do the same to hers. We are laughing together. I lay down in that meadow. She does not let go of her embrace. We just lay there without saying a word for I do not know how much time: I lost track of it. What is time anyway? Here there is no such concept.
At some point, we stand up. She takes my hand and starts running. I follow her, not because I have no other choice, but because I want to. We run and jump around, laughing. The flowers are catching us when we fall back on the ground. This smell of fresh air gives me peace.
The sky is clear. I have not looked at the sky in a while. When was the last time that I looked up? That girl’s tiny hand is still in mine. It is so soft. Sometimes she pulls my hand gently to make sure that I am still there. Her short blond hair is a mess, but she does not care. Her green eyes are admiring every detail of the view before us. I do the same. We are so much alike. We have the same smile, even if mine can be seen only behind the tears that never stopped falling.
She knows that I must go soon. She reaches into one of her pockets. She is searching for something. When she takes her hand out, she has that something in her small fist. She waits for me to give her my hand. She opens her fist, allowing me to see a ray of light in her palm. I take it and put it somewhere safe in my heart. I store it there for eternity, maybe in this way I will never forget about it ever again. I hug her tightly once more. She hugs me back and holds on to me, or I hold on to her, I do not know. I take one last deep breath. “I will never leave you again. We should come here more often. I promise I will never see the hat,” I say before opening my eyes. I am back in the snowstorm. I am back in that silence.
This is the last time I will go down this mountain. I want to stretch this a little bit more, but time is just a concept invented by humans to bring value to their lives, to the minutes spent on doing a task, shared with someone or spent travelling. Humans like to quantify everything so they can have an asset that they can give in return for something else.
But my dear you know who, we do not have time. We do not own time. This concept started to eat us alive. We are asking everyone for a few seconds to be able to add to ours. We are trying to add to our “value” by asking for somebody else’s time. It is like we are borrowing, but we will never be able to give it back. We start getting upset or hurt because we do not have or receive enough time in return. We continuously worry that we will run out if our inventory is not supplied by someone. We even say “thank you for your time” like we took it and put it in our little box to store it for later. If time is so precious, why when we share a memory, we never quantify how much time we spent on making it? We barely remember the concept of time when we tell a story. We do not even know what time is anymore because it does not matter. It matters that those actions happened. When we say “thank you for the memory”, we store it in a little box in our hearts.
Think about the stars. When the sky is clear we can see so many. Astronomers define the stars' brightness in terms of apparent magnitude. The standard distance for that is 32.6 light-years. To be more specific, the light we see has already travelled several light-years. In other words, the light that is projected is an actual living memory. The star already lit a spot in the galaxy and we now see only parts of its past. When we stop and stare, do we think about time? Their time or ours? No. When we look at the stars, we see how they looked years ago. It is possible that some of them do not even exist anymore. This is how insignificant and abstract time can be. There is no way to find out the present state of the stars.
Stars are special in their own way. Humans create shapes from their position or try to predict the future. There is an entire map of how they are placed or what constellation they form. But who decided that? We can form different images by ourselves by connecting some of them. Even if we see the stars close to one another, in reality, they can be light-years away from each other. We are making up stories and giving them more power than they should have over us as we give in to the concept of time.
There is the Orion Nebula, from where the stars are born from clouds of gas and dust. We will never be able to see a star that was just born. I saw the nebula recently through a telescope. It was by mistake, to be honest. I just stood in line to watch something celestial through that big invention. I wanted to ask what I was going to see, but I preferred not to. I just wanted to feel closer to the sky. I saw the Nebula from which some stars are born. My thought was: maybe people are Nebulas for memories.
We create memories in the same way stars are born: we only see them after a while. No matter how far some memories are from one another, we tend to connect them because they make us who we are. For some, memories are the only reason to stay alive.
We both know where I am when I am giving you all these thoughts. I am on my last ride for a lot of things and I am only a few steps away from saying goodbye to a lifestyle that I followed my whole life. Yes, I am terrified. Yes, I have no idea what is going to happen. And yes, I am tired of all the questions. Maybe that is why I like to be here, on the top of the mountain. I am far away from everyone that is whispering in my ear, asking for information that I do not have or from people that think that I am falling on my own. There is no pressure up in the mountain. The air is purer.
I have the feeling that I want to stretch time a little bit more, but there is no point in doing that. I have my memories. Maybe I could have done more, maybe I missed a lot of opportunities, but I do not know that for sure. I am happy with my achievements. I found out that I am made from different pieces that might never come together to form a complete picture. I learned to keep them close to me and connect with them when I need them.
I met people that, at a certain moment, had little to no effect on me. But when I randomly passed by them later, they gave me the energy that I needed to go on. They recognized me and asked me with so much kindness how I am. I did not try to avoid the question like I sometimes do. I answered honestly with a shy smile, even if I was sad that day. They told me that they feel lucky to have seen me blossom. They were curious about how I will end up. In return, I was surprised they recognized me.
I am in a snowstorm in my life, just like I am right now on the top of this mountain. Nobody can guarantee that I will not go off track, not even me. Still, even if I do, that does not mean that I cannot find my way back to the slope or that I will not reach it at a certain point. Furthermore, we both know that I like a bit of adrenaline. I am prepared because I trust my body and my board. I must get lost sometimes in order to find a smoother path. I am not rushing anything either. I am just moving forward.
Some people will never see me for who I am. However, after showing them my true colours, their view of me is not my responsibility. I am working on not caring anymore. Sometimes, even if the truth is exactly in front of them, I cannot force them to see it. I am not stuck. I will never be stuck as long as I continue to believe in the light that I have inside me. The light that was given back to me by that little blond girl.
It is time for me to get up, my dear you know who. It is time for me to get up and have one last dance on this mountain with my board. This is for us. I will lead and follow the melody of the snowstorm. I still cannot see anything around me, just the whiteness of the snow. The tears stopped falling a while ago. I am putting back my ski mask and my helmet. I am back on my feet. I take another deep breath and let myself slide downhill. My body knows exactly how to move without me thinking too much or at all. I leave my mark on the fresh snow. Maybe it will be covered soon or it might remain there, I will never know. I fall, but I am caught by a soft powder. I get up. I am alone but full of adrenaline. I am enjoying every second of this journey. My moves are fast and fluid. I know exactly what I am supposed to do. I have gathered the experience I need during all my previous journeys. My breathing is deep and constant. I feel the cold embracing me once again. I sense the last turn coming before reaching the intersection. The snowflakes kiss me goodbye one more time and I jump to answer. It was the perfect jump. I have enough speed and I pass by all the other people that are struggling to move past the flat portion. I reach the finish line. I take one last deep breath. I look back at the mountains again with a smile before going into the village.
It is snowing peacefully. I sit down and light a cigarette before dropping off my equipment. I still have one more moment to myself. I take a deep breath.
I am not sure if I am ready for what is coming next. I cannot see further than 5 metres ahead. However, as I did earlier, I will trust my instincts and what I learned so far. I have the people that I love and the light in my heart with me at every step. It is not a goodbye. It is moving forward to a different kind of adventure. I take another deep breath.
I do not know when the next time I will send you a letter will be, but I promise that I will not stop writing. Thank you for keeping my thoughts safe. Thank you for all the memories that we shared. I will have you in my heart always.
I take one last deep breath before the last words.
With a smile accompanied by tears,
Someone that closes a book to start another one