I have to breathe. It is very difficult to remember such a basic thing in here. How could I forget? I can hardly speak. There is so much chaos. So much terror. I find myself holding my breath. Then the sobbing. It is so difficult. Just breathe she says. Her voice is soft, smooth, gentle. I remember that voice from somewhere but not in here. Everything here is harsh. Difficult. Threatening just getting to the phone. Breathe, she encourages. Breathe. How could I forget? It’s all so bleak. Dark in so many ways. I do not want the dark, but it’s all around me.
At first I did not know how to do all this phone connect stuff. Wait. It’s not your turn. Why am I holding my breath? Have to wait, it’s not your turn. This is not normal, I know. Nothing in here is normal. I do not know my way around, especially the phone call issues. There’s an echo. Voices. Then hers comes through. Breathe. I can’t stop sobbing. I’m sorry, oh so sorry. Help me. I do not know what to do. My chest is tight. My head throbs. Just breathe she says gently.
I waited so long. Then my turn. Dial. It’s finally ringing. Please pick up. Press 3, oh please press 3 to connect the call. Can you hear me? Yes, my wife says, I am right here no need to shout. I didn’t realize I was shouting. I am so sorry I say again. I love you. I can’t go on I sob. Breathe, she repeats. There are too many people. I am afraid. Terrified actually. What did I do?
Breathe. Easy to say, difficult to do. I’m out of control. I cannot even speak. Is this a dream? No, it’s real. Are you still there? I’m so alone. Surrounded closely by men but so alone. I’m numb. End it please. Yes, she says, right here.
You have one minute the voice tells us. Don’t leave me. I’m sorry. I love you. Help me. Just breathe she tells me, it’s alright. But it isn’t all right. It’s all wrong. I’m here. You are there and I am sorry. Gone. She’s gone. Twenty minutes and she’s gone just like that. The line is long, no calling back. It’s over. Back to my cell. It’s dark. No help. No relief. I have to breathe but find it hard. Is this what death is like, a panic? Pounding head, pressure on my chest? Why is it so hard?
Just breathe resonates through me like that song. Is this another dream? I follow the herd back to our cells after the phone goes dead. I find I am still sobbing. I stumble and someone I do not know helps me. I am weak, reeling. Just breathe she had said, I am here. How do I do that? Meds soon. They help calm me. Follow the herd. Line up. March to the room where relief comes. Just breathe till I get those pills. Somehow my rubber legs carry me there and back. Why am I still crying? How did I get on my bunk?
It’s easier now. The calmness settles over me but I know the storm will come again and there’s nothing I can do. Just breathe. Did she say that or am I here dreaming? Will I wake out there? Will this chaos never end?
No. Noise, chaos, meds. The calmness comes if I just breathe. I don’t want to. I want it all to end or get better. I know this is all wrong, very wrong. It’s dark and loud. Echoes in this concrete building. All so foreign. Nothing to hang on to. Nothing I can do. Just breathe.

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