Like A Water Buffalo With Asthma

In the closed confines of a bus I always fear that I breathe too loud. It’s a stupid thing to worry about but when I have my headphones in (blasting my mix of Norah Jones and Mandy Moore, ‘cause I’m a man) I can’t help but hear my own breathing in my head and thinking that I am just blasting my breath all over the poor guy sitting in front of me. I’m convinced he’s just sitting there wondering, “Did a water buffalo with asthma just sit down behind me?”

I pop the headphone out of my ear and realize that I am in fact breathing like a normal human being, so I put the bud back in and go back to jamming to Merrimack River. Two minutes later I hear my breath in my head again and repeat the process. This happens over the entire drive to or from class. Sometimes I just leave one ear bud out to avoid the cycle. The only time I don’t fall into this pattern is when I’m completely alone on the bus and even then I’m always worried about the bus driver. Is my music too loud? Can they hear my piano-girl music? Am I singing out loud or is that in my head?

The worst is when some poor misguided soul decides to sit next to me. I completely forget to breathe. I always think I’m being super cool and collected, but in reality I keep shrinking into the corner, making myself as small as possible (which is no easy feat) and slowly turning red. The girl next to me throws nervous glances my way and I smile- my eyes wide with accidental asphyxia. Just when I begin to flop around like a fish out of water, the bus comes to a stop outside my dorm and I race to the exit. I mumble “Thank yous” and “I’m sorrys” as she lets me out into the aisle. I tumble out of the bus, gasping for breath like a man who’s been locked away in a leaky submarine.

I have yet to find a remedy for this, so if you see me sitting uncomfortably on a bus like a scared refuge, feel free to say “Hi” and remind me that it’s not a crime to breathe in public. I often forget.

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