August 1, 2014

Essay: "The Cooling Breath" by Kat Stillman

  Kat is currently living, working, and writing in Atlanta.  She lived in Indiana for a brief time in the early 1970's.  She is currently working on a poetry chapbook and enjoying time with her family.

"The Cooling Breath"

    As a child during the 1960's I was plagued with sudden, unexplained fevers.  A frequent event that had the doctors mystified and my mother running for the alcohol bottle.  Rubbing alcohol, that is.  She was a firm believer that alcohol sponge baths would quickly reduce a fever.  Of course, it didn't work, and as my temperature raged, I slipped into unconsciousness.

     Pale, lethargic, and burning hot; I felt myself floating upwards, traveling through a vast atmospheric blackness of space, towards a white crack in the hemisphere.  A bright, pulsing crevice my body yearned to enter into.  As I neared the light, I spoke to it, saying, " I want to go with you. I'm hot and I hate that smell."

     The answer was instantaneous--a cooling breath whispered across my forehead. "No."

     I opened my eyes to see my mother's face covered in fear, the white alcohol bottle on the nightstand, my body draped with cold rags soaked in the smelly stuff, and my fever miraculously gone.

     The dream never varied.  The doctors explained it away as a "delusion" caused by the intensity of the fever.  A glitch in my consciousness.  But as suddenly as the mysterious fevers began, they stopped.  Completely.  My mother put away her alcohol bottle and declared I had been touched by God.

     Many years later as an adult, I developed the flu, and for the first time since childhood, a low-grade fever. Tired, hot and achy, I swallowed a couple of Tylenol pills and crawled into bed.  As I fell asleep, I once again felt myself floating upwards through space.  The same dream as in the early days, only this time, the dream varied.  As I gazed at the pulsing light, a voice emerged from beyond the crevice.

     "Child, don't you know I healed you from that?"

     I awoke in my bed completely well.  Today, I still don’t entertain fevers, but I do shudder at the smell of rubbing alcohol.

Kat Stillman

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