It's the first word of my very first novel. "Breathe..." In this case, I was using the term literally. My heroine arrives in Bangkok and is immediately assaulted with the foreign smell of the place. I still remember my own debarkation, back in the eighties, before jet ways. Clambering down the metal stairs onto the tarmac, after midnight, I nearly swooned at the combination of diesel fuel, moist earth, night-blooming jasmine, and fried garlic.
If you write erotica, breathing is more than an autonomic process responsible for oxygenating the blood. Arousal reveals itself in our breathing. We pant, gasp, gulp air, hold it as we wait in anticipation or delicious terror for the next touch, the next stroke of the crop. I did a search for "breath" in the random subset of my stories I happen to have on my disk in text format. Here's a small sampling of what I found.
The song changed to something more upbeat. She shook her hips, did the same bumps and grinds as the other dancers, but the effect was totally different. She was listening to some inner voice. Every now and again her eyes would meet mine, and that luscious smile would light her face. I found myself holding my breath, willing her to turn again in my direction. ~ Butterfly
His beard was softer than it looked, tickling her. For a moment he simply held her, breathing in, inhaling her as if she were another drug. Suddenly there was shocking wetness. His tongue circled her navel, dipped inside. Her sex clenched in a sudden, delicious spasm. ~ Chemistry
All at once I wanted him. I grabbed him and fastened my mouth on his, grinding my pelvis against his hardness. He opened to me, held me tight as if he was afraid I would evaporate. “Where can we go?” I panted when we broke for breath. ~ Citadel of Women
Alan relaxes in his chair, enjoying Beryl's confusion. He's been in the film business long enough to recognize an act. Her flushed cheeks and quickened breath speak more clearly than her deliberately chosen words. She still wants me, he thinks with a hint of smugness, after all this time. ~ Old Flame
I bask in his gaze, proud and humble simultaneously. "You know what happens when you tease me. I'm sure that you remember the other night." Of course I do, and the memory leaves me wet and breathless: the binding, the beating, the final delicious buggering. My sex overflows. My thighs are slippery with my juices. I imagine he can hear the liquid squelch as I walk. His arm is around my shoulder now, guiding me along. ~ Wednesday Night at Rocky's Ace Hardware
"Much better." She flicks a lock away from my breast, almost but not quite touching me. "But I certainly don't want to hide those adorable tits." Seating herself on the chaise, she beckons me to her. My nipples are just at the level of her lips. She warms one with her breath, and it tightens visibly. I want to scream, to beg her to touch me. She's running this show, though. We both know that. ~ Velvet
I could go on, but I'm sure that I've made my point. The way our characters breathe tells our readers what they're feeling, as much as their facial expressions or vocalizations, their wetness or hardness. And in an erotic encounter, lovers use their breath as an extension of their bodies.
Breathing is more than just a tool for delineating emotion, though. Breath is also a powerful metaphor for life itself. Some versions of Genesis say that God animated the clay body of Adam by breathing upon it. "I'll never give in, while there's breath in my body," our dauntless heroes claim.
Breath is also used to refer to the spark of creative passion. The word "inspiration" derives from from the Latin inspiratus, past participle of inspirare "inspire, inflame, blow into," from in-"in" + spirare "to breathe". The connection to the term "spirit" is obvious. In fact the original meaning of inspiration was "under the immediate influence of a God or god".
"Inflame". How appropriate a term for a writer of erotica!
When inspiration strikes - when the words are flowing unhindered, the scenes in my imagination painting themselves effortlessly on the page - I do indeed have the sense that I've been touched by something divine. I feel it in my chest, a kind of buoyancy, as though I'd filled my lungs with helium. My poor body seems too limited a vessel to encompass the joy.
I wrote a poem many years ago about inspiration, called "metapoem":
it comes as the wind comes and you can't change it. you can only be patient and open and humble. in glimmers, in floods, it comes. you have to be reverent - silent - or else go out and get drunk, forget it to find it.
Inspiration, the author's Holy Grail. It's mysterious and yet simple. As simple as breathing.