first breath off, first breath on

Stepping off the plane and onto the jetway, he always takes a long, deliberate breath during the first step, the one onto the very end of the levered ramp, so that he can feel it reverberate a little, and see the gap between the accordion-folded plastic and the plane.

One long inhalation has always told him how the day and night fit together where he’s landed, the makeup of the city council, whether he needs his windbreaker, dive bars only locals know. All in one breath. He compares it to the breath he as he made his step off the jetway and onto the plane. He adds them up and subtract whatever’s there twice, and is left knowing: it’s warm. It’s humid. His love is waiting for him over the bridge.

And the cars’ headlights and the broken glass on the road behind him twinkle like Pleiades in the 11:07 city’s twilight.