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Precious Deep Breaths

Waiting for rock bottom


Julia McNair, the single, jobless, almost forty-year-old former athlete from San Antonio, slipped off her pinching, open-toed gold stilettos and with a flip of an ankle flung them onto the glossy tiles that lined the highest infinity pool in all of Phnom Penh.

The shoes skittered across the tile, and the left one even went strap over heel into the deep end of the deserted pool without so much as a ripple.

Whatever, they were knock-off Michael Cohrs anyway. 

She padded to the smooth, rounded edge of the glistening, quiet pool that overlooked the bustling, overburdened city like a jeweled hairpin atop a clashing outfit. She gripped the edge with her pedicured toes, like an Olympic diver before the last heat.

She had imagined, years ago, days ago, hours ago, that she had chosen this life. 

So why did it seem that with every decision she had labored and worried over thus far, she still felt like a leaf swept up in a flooding river, cascading into overflow after overflow?

The Alan Watts Youtube videos she had listened to over the past few months held the sacred refrain that life was precious, to trust in the flow of the universe.

Be like water, or some other Bruce Lee quote.

Yet, as she stood by herself, drunk off gin at 10:31 am, wearing a black sequined dress she only bought so she could get free shipping, she knew she'd never be able to unravel like water.

Perhaps what made her so precious, was that despite feeling that her life had become caught up in currents of priorities thrust upon her from unintended consequences of well-researched choices, was that she still continued to struggle against the current.

She still swam to keep her identity intact, despite her supervisor demanding her badge and lanyard three and a half weeks ago. 

The almost-forty-year-old woman swiveled so she faced parallel to the pool's edge, and as she had as a gymnast on her last balance beam routine twenty-four years ago, she dipped her right foot downward below the lip of the cement.

Her toe breached the placid, cool water right as a car alarm flared to life thirty stories below.

She hadn't known what she was thinking, letting her projects at work slip. Allowing email after email to dam up her monitor screen, leaving a reservoir of red. 

Maybe it was the failed engagement, perhaps her last real chance at an everyday storybook life in sepia-toned Reno. Maybe it was watching her younger cousins leap forward in life, purchasing property, Post Malone tickets, and polka-dot infant onesies, that made her lose her sight of what was precious.

Maybe she had let the looming skyscrapers of other people's highlighted moments make her keep holding her breath, sternum tight as a drum, for a breaking of surface tension that would never come. 

She turns entirely again to the pool and looks down at the warped, golden blur six or so feet under the hyper-chlorinated water. 

Horns, clanking, and unmuffled engine accelerations don't affect her as she spreads out her arms like a t, and turns a complete 180. 

Once at Deloitte, she participated in a trust-fall exercise. She had crossed her arms and held her breath as she tipped backward off the short stage. To her surprise the spindly UX designer, Sven, and three others that didn't look like they've ever seen a gym or drank a protein shake in their lives, actually caught her. Yet, they didn't catch, Carl, the overweight product manager, which led to a blanket ban on all physical team-building exercises, even walking meditation.


Maybe the entire point of the exercise wasn't the relief of being caught.

Maybe it was in the precious moments of holding your breath and waiting for rock bottom.

So Julia McNair, the single, jobless, almost-forty former athlete out from San Antonio held her breath and counted the precious half second before she broke the surface tension.

Power in Numbers




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