colored smoke by def110 on flickr - http://www.flickr.com/photos/def110/4352580698/Take a deep breath.

It’s cold. The night air’s black and thin.

My breath is throwing frozen angels into the night.

Purse my lips, puff. A misty cherub.

I puff again, enjoying the effect.



Stop that, you say. It’s going all over me.

What’s going all over you?

Your breath, you say.

My breath?

You say nothing.

My breath is going all over you.

You still say nothing.

But my breath is always going all over you.

Yeah, but normally I can just ignore it, you snap.

You’re irritated.

This is new.

I wait for a second, then can’t help myself.

What’s… wrong with my breath going over you?

It’s, it’s… – you wheel your hand impatiently at the wrist – it’s dirty.

I laugh.

This is clearly the wrong response.

Well, it is! It’s fucking filthy!

Measured tone.

How can it be filthy? It’s just breath.

Oh my god.

No, really, how can breath be dirty?

It’s not just breath, is it? It’s, you know, breath that you’ve used up already. It’s, like, waste. Like car exhaust or something. You wouldn’t laugh if I said I didn’t want to breathe in car fumes, would you? It’s the same thing.

Car exhaust is poisonous, though.

So is breath. It’s all carbon dioxide. All the oxygen’s gone. That’s why you breathe it out.

Not all the oxygen’s gone. That’s why they make you breathe into a bag if you’re having a panic attack.

No, it’s not. They make you breathe into a bag because you need more carbon dioxide.

But there must still be oxygen in there, or you’d die.

Yeah, but still. And it’s your own breath, anyway. That’s different.

…Is it?

Of course it is. I mean, it’s still not nice, but it’s better than someone else’s.

Fucking hell.


That’s so mad.

It’s not fucking mad. I’m not mad. It’s you lot that’s mad.

By “you lot”, you mean, like, the rest of the human race?

It’s not just me, all right? I bet loads of people think that, they’re just don’t want to say it in case people take the piss.

I wonder why they’d be worried about that.

Look, you’re really pissing me off now.


You’re not though, are you?

No, really. I am. Sorry. I’ll shut up now.

I can see you laughing, you fucker.

Oh look, I’m sorry, it’s just so – it’s just a bit weird.

It’s not. Look, it’s full of germs, right? That’s why they tell you to cover your mouth when you sneeze. “Coughs and sneezes spread diseases”, right? Japanese people don’t even blow their noses in public because they think it’s dirty. You know, it’s waste products. Like – well, you know.

Like shit?

Oh my god. Yes, like shit.

You think exhaled breath is like shit.

Well. No, not shit. More like… more like farts, actually.

Right. That makes much more sense.

I wish I’d never said anything now.


But, you know, people are breathing out all the time. Practically every breath you take must –

You put up one hand, palm out.

Don’t. Look, all right, I know it’s a bit weird. But it’s just how I feel. I can’t help it. It’s not normally a problem. I just ignore it. But when it’s cold and you can see everything – well, you know, it’s like the difference between knowing that people go to the toilet and actually seeing it.

All right. Look, I really didn’t mean to upset you. It’s just – it must make it a bit difficult talking to people and stuff.

It does, sometimes. Like I say, most of the time I don’t really think about it. Only if it’s cold. Or when someone stands really close to you and you can feel it.

That’s pretty revolting anyway. Unless you fancy them, of course.

Well, yeah.


A thought occurs.

So what about when we, you know? When we kiss? I mean, it’s pretty unavoidable then, isn’t it?

You stop, turn to face me. Your face is hard, your stance stern.

Yeah, you say.

I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that. ##

3 thoughts on “Exhale

  1. I made a minimally interactive version of this story – which actually works pretty well – on an interesting new platform called Tapestry.

    Here it is.

    Tapestry seems to be trying to generate the same kind of creativity-through-constraint as Twitter or Vine – and like those services, is very well tailored to mobile and tablet devices. It’s quite immature as yet, but I do recommend trying the iOS app (the Android one is buggy and seems to lack a lot of functionality).

    Alas, Tapestry seems to have become a mobile advertising platform. Because the world needed another one of those.

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