Relaxed Reads: Fractured Breath


Fractured Breath

Shelby Driver

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I was at the library when your mother sent me the text, as if to lessen the blow that you were in the ER, cut open like a half-ripe pomegranate. I couldn’t hold your hand until six hours after they sewed a cheap rubber hose into your side to drain the fluid, your ribs and some shoddy stitchwork holding it inside of you. 

We sat together in your sterile hospital room, silent. Your shaggy curls misplaced, your boyish chest exposed, frail and underfed. Sweetheart, you looked so beaten. After three weeks with an upper respiratory infection, we found that every time I had laid my head against your chest, I  had mistook your lung leaking like a flat tire for your heartbeat. It slept in your ribcage, hissing as it deflated into a wrinkled raisin, day after day. Your other lung politely took up the workload and never complained.

They kept you strapped to that hose for days, the nurse coming in to drain your blood like clockwork. I held your hand when you were awake and crocheted you little animals while you slept. It was the only way I knew how to comfort you, even though it didn’t. 

The day for surgery came and they almost killed you.  I sat in the waiting room and cried in front of your mother and mine, and pleaded to God that he would save you. Forced to sit and wait for you to find your way back through milky miles of idiot-inflicted sleep. This is getting old. This is taking too long.

Another boy, just like you, was admitted down the hall. His lung had collapsed also, and the summer of busted balloons continued. He was inflated again in three days. We still waited for yours. 

After three weeks of re-stitching your hose in new, fresher skin, holding hands, going under, no showers, and no changes, we took you by ambulance to Riverside. You settled in again, and met your new physician, Dr. Stryker. No, we didn’t ask questions. The next morning you’re under again and they’re stapling the blebs that formed on your decaying lung. Staples seem contradictory; why poke holes in popped bubble wrap? Somehow, they work, and after a month of sucking sallow, fractured air you began to breathe wholly. So did I. 

As you tried to wake from your anesthesia sleep, they told me they had to cut through your nerves, and you can never have an MRI. I asked them why it happened in the first place and they still haven’t answered. I guess it doesn’t matter, I just want you to wake up.

Contact Shelby Driver at [email protected].