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December 27th, 2020
Lucilius was exhausted as he boarded the empty subway and slumped into his seat. His night shit was over, his week was over, and only a moment of simple rest and reprieve sent him dreaming. The loud clank of doors opening woke him, his bleary eyes barely open.
A young woman got on and sat across the aisle, looking off at nothing distinct. The doors clanked shut again and the train moved forward again as Lucilius drifted off again.
He awoke moments later to a loud ding. His eyes cracked to see the young woman pulling a phone from her purse. Lucilius was about to let himself drift off again when he noticed a sudden shift on the girl’s face. Within a moment she was started breathing heavily, staring at the phone still muttering over and over the word ‘no’.
She was fully hyperventilating as Lucilius straightened up.
“I can’t breath..” She barely muttered between huge gasps of air. Clearly she was starting to have a panic attack, Lucilius figured. Her face contorted with sadness, and now fear as she repeated “I can’t breath..”
“You ok?” Lucilius asked.
The girl looked at him, heaving air, “I can’t breathe!” She said.
“What do you mean?” Lucilius said. “You’re breathing more than I am!”
The strange statement had the effect Lucilius wanted. The girl grew more panicked, and frightened. She could only whisper the words as she gasped…
I can’t breathe…
“What are you talking about!?” Lucilius demanded, wide-eyed, and with an over blown, almost cartoonish tone of voice.
“You’re sucking all the air out of this train!”
The girl was staring straight at him -confused, as she hyperventilated, her face beginning to curl into a cry. Then Lucilius grabbed his own neck, as though he were choking, and he twisted his face, making his eyes bulge and made a farce and an act of suffocating. He fell to the floor of the subway and began to writhe on the ground ridiculously, grasping both his neck and reaching up as though for a life that was leaving him. And in the periphery, he saw a smile force it’s way onto the girl’s distressed face. He kept it up, and pretended to struggle foolishly as he desperately breathed out the words..
“You need to stop breathing so much… or I’m gonna die… I need oxygen too…..you have to share!”
The girl was crying, but she was also laughing at the sight. “Stop it!” She managed to yelp as she laughed and cried. But Lucilius thrashed around even more ridiculously, until the girl was choking on laughter.
“Stop it!” She yelped again, between hiccups of unwelcome joy, “I can’t breathe,” she said, smiling.
Lucilius froze for a moment, and then he dropped the act and sat back in his seat, sighing with relief.
“Thankyou,” he said. He smiled rather foolishly. “Couldn’t catch my breath there for a moment.”
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