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Tiny Breaths of Love

By Maya Khanna

These vignettes were all written based on the style of the New York Times series, “Tiny Love Stories,” which are written in response to a theme or idea, in 100 words or less. Each of the vignettes below are written less than 100 words, in response to the theme of “respiration.” Each draws on a personal moment, memory, or realization from this fall that has been of particular significance to me.

Through the Kitchen Window:

I watch the kitchen lights flicker on through the window, diffused through rectangular panes and spreading out to form golden shadows on the dark porch. Bowls of chocolate ice cream sit haphazardly on the edge of the table, small spoons tipping precariously on their corrugated edges. The image is a gentle one, blurred into colors with no detail at the edge of my pupils. Alone on the dark porch, I begin to cry, as the tranquility of the peaceful scene forms a chokehold around my trachea. Turning away, I offer my breath instead to the predictable rhythms of the night.

From the South Peak of Mount Moosilauke:

In the middle of the witching hour, the summit of Mount Moosilauke sleeps. The crunch of footsteps against granite stilled, the chittering of squirrels and butterflies silenced. Jagged peaks reach into a hazy cloud of starlight, catching water droplets before they fall to earth to break the mountain’s slumber. Against the silence, I hear the mountain breathe; a sharp exhale on a gust of wind, the long acquisition of oxygen coursing through granitic veins. From my sleeping bag, the gentle rise and fall of her chest, curves defined by spooning pine needles in a small clearing.

Monsters Under the Bed:

At five, they were green with purple spines, creeping up from the shadows under my bed. Convinced I could outsmart my monsters by surveilling the window panes, I stayed awake for hours, watching. An infallible tactic: not once did any figures of the night arise to eat me.

I have since replaced darkness with glowing stars above my head, swapped a thin sheet for a heavy comforter. Tucked away beneath starlight, I still check my window panes nightly. Never once have I seen a purple spine. Only footprints beside the bed and the assured arrival of clipped breath at midnight.

The Intimacy of Breath:

I fantasize often about a time when I might once again walk naked down Main Street. Reveal to the world the dimples on my cheeks, brazenly expose midsummer freckles. To kiss, at length and deeply on the corner by the bookshop. In such a world, I will no longer steal moments in alleyways. Nor will I hide myself away as a secret for one. Instead, I will run through a crowd breathing through my open mouth and jump into the arms of the world.


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