Breathe 2017-12-31T00:30:46+00:00


a memoir 

by Shayan Santicola Landrum

I awoke during my own burial. I thought I had opened my eyes but all was black. My mouth was stuffed with dirt and my lungs refused to move. There were distant voices above me, muffled through the earth, and I thought they must be the ones who did this to me. Could they not hear me struggling down here? Why had they buried me? Had I died? Then why was I alive again? In a wave of realization that instantly turned to panic, I felt the visceral reality of my body: no air, soil stuffed deep into my chest blocking my lungs, pain everywhere, and the heavy weight of many feet of ground on top of me. Overwhelmed, I let the cold envelope me, and became, once again, unaware.


The descent out of unconsciousness marked a time of dreams for me. Not gentle ones. The second time I awoke I realized I was not buried. Worse yet, I was alive, and people and machines around me were prodding, poking, coercing me to be alive. I wished to tell them not to, that I [...]


As the entire history of everything collided right behind my eyes, forever sunken specks into my present mind, I dared not look too closely or I might spin myself around. Dizzy, I would become lost in the myriad universe of the particles that made a yesterday, that conjoined to unite into what is called [...]


Morphine doesn’t always work. On May 18th I would learn that as fact, the way I had once learned that the circumference of the earth is approximately one hundred eight times the distance to the sun. But on this day I understood it viscerally. I knew it the way I know what the color [...]


The boat was caught in a current and I wished the mud to stick fast to the bulwark, to keep me from sliding towards the open waters, but the tug was too strong. I could not paddle up, only gaze longingly over my shoulder, tether my thoughts to the dream that had closed behind [...]


Hazy, wakeful moments staring out the window over Central Park mixed with slipping into a stupor were only interspersed with periodic x-rays and deliveries of food. Mike, the x-ray tech was young, tall, and handsome and always surprised me by appearing while I was asleep, mouth agape, likely drooling. I would try to compose [...]


On a spaceship, passing by. The world outside was alien, where plants grew leaves that breathed the same air as people walking so far below I could only imagine them, not see them. And I pictured them carrying umbrellas—it had been raining since I first woke—so from my spaceship up high they would look [...]


Two tomorrows arrived and faded and the chest tubes remained inside of me. The pain was overwhelming, leaving me desperate and weak, and the noise from the nurse’s station just outside my door made me too anxious to sleep so I stared out the window to the tops of the trees of Central Park. [...]


The day after my lung had been re-inflated, my head fell off. When Dr. A inserted the catheter between my ribs on my right side and then hooked it up to suction, my entire body had gone into spasm with coughing. As the coughing finally subsided, I was left with an intense muscle spasm [...]


‘He’ll be with you in just a minute,’ Teresa said, pointing to a chair at the table. I sat down. ‘Are you sure you don’t want your parents to come in with you?’ I shook my head and coughed. For a moment I was alone, staring out at the treetops, the sound of traffic [...]


And then home. I was nearly outlived by the scent of pine needles on the wet ground of a temperate rainforest. I knew other things then. Things that had been burned into sunsets on wooden decks and meadows in the wild. After leaving the hospital I became a reptile. My body had no thermo-regulation [...]


Summer The day rustled me back from a mid-afternoon nap. Sunlight beckoned my flickering eyelids and muscles began to twitch, toes and fingers creeping under the blanket. My mind shivered from sleep to awake, recognizing light, hope, warmth, and then my eyes scanned the room, taking in its emptiness and quiet. Like a dust [...]


She was coming.  I could feel it. Preparing to revolve from my inside out. And what would leave with her from me? And what would stay from her with me? We began as union and now we would dance together to create ultimate separation, stretching ourselves apart over time to the finest threads. May [...]