Sometimes I feel my heartbeat in my hands
and I remember that I am here and I am real and I am alive.
Blood pumping, lungs circulating;
heart beating in my hands.
Sometimes I catch myself worrying about my lungs,
about the inhale and the exhale that comes after.
I start to panic, and, just like that,
I forget how to breathe.
I think of when I got knocked down by a wave and couldn’t get back up,
how I thought that it would suck me off the shore
and I swallowed the sea and I worried I would never feel dry again.
I think of the shower on east 10th street where I sat fully dressed
as the tap flooded down and soaked my clothes and submerged my face
and I began to hyperventilate, and I thought it would never end
and that I would cry forever.
I think of my fear of tunnels,
and of how every time I pass through
I worry that one day when I’m inside bumper to bumper
the walls will collapse and the water will pour in and I will drown right there as I sit in traffic,
praying to a god that is busy elsewhere
that I will live to gasp for air.
I think about you too,
and what you must have felt when you stopped breathing,
what it must have been like in the moment when you realized there was no more air.
And then, I do my best to focus on the heartbeat in my hands
and I use it as a metronome:
inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale; in time
with the beating of my heart
My name is Cat Schneiderman and I write essays and poetry. I studied literary non-fiction at Columbia Journalism School, and am now working towards becoming an addiction therapist. This poem is for Jack, and Parker, and Eric, and all the people I don't know and never will who overdosed and died in the last year. It is a poem about coping with loss, and what you're left with when someone leaves.