Counting her breaths
She was always breathless. Panting as though she’d run a marathon. She had only crossed the room as slowly as a snail; or simply sitting I could hear the wheeziness of her lungs working, crackling inside her chest. I asked the kind man at the Fall clinic (she did have her last and most terrible fall only 10 days later) if he thought her breathing was okay. He counted her breaths. 18 per minute. That was fine. And yet I still hear the insistent breathing, fast, shallow, almost frightened. I asked her why she breathed so and she closed her mouth. Then I could not hear it. A relief, not just because I couldn’t hear the rapid workings of her lungs, but because I couldn’t smell her exhalations. Stale and stinky. Fetid.