I often forget to breathe.

Quite literally, the physical act of inhaling escapes me—these moments when I’m caught up in exhilaration, in excitement, in anger or fear or sadness or awe. I am so easily swept away in emotion that my lungs can’t seem to recall they are meant to be doing a job; it's a movie on pause, remote control flung onto the couch, flickering screen frozen in place.

And the heroine slips out of the story for just a moment & readjusts the blankets, or stretches out her stiff limbs, or wanders off into the kitchen to make another bowl of popcorn,

breathe in. breathe out. breathe in. breathe out. breathe i—

But the story will begin again. That much is inevitable—we humans are fragile creatures. Eventually I will remember that I must let out a breath sometime.

So when it happens, my chest aches like an afterthought, like a probability. Like

oh, hello. I didn’t know what I was missing until I found it.

I think that is what happiness has become to me. Letting out air that has fidgeted restless in one’s lungs for far too long. How your chest aches in the brightest way. The quiet anticipation, taking a deep breath for the first time in years. A soft necessity—how the story comes back to life as if it were never gone.