Two hundred forty six. I had counted at least a thousand times. There were two hundred forty six concrete bricks used to make the walls of this dungeon I was forced to exist in. I won’t say live in, because I wasn’t living, I was existing. My body was physically here, my mind however was gone.
I couldn’t tell you how many days I had been in here. There were no clocks and no windows, just the flickering, buzzing fluorescent lights. The days and nights blended together into a continuous span of torturous boredom.
We weren’t allowed any personal items in isolation, therefore I couldn’t read, write or draw. I couldn’t play cards or laugh with friends or take a damn shower. It was just me, my mind, and the occasional clanging of doors in the distance.
Periodically, animalistic wails would echo through the hallways. At first I though whoever was making these noises must be crazy. They sounded inhuman. Over time however, I started to understand those noises and could relate to what that person was feeling. Every moment that passed, I found myself slipping further and further away from reality.
I know it had to be at least 9 days, because I had been keeping track of the meals I was offered, most of which I flushed down the toilet. I had lost a lot of weight, I could tell because the clothes were loose now. The food was so different in isolation. For breakfast they served a hideous bread pudding loaf, which had bits of what I can only assume was fruit and flecks of something green and translucent.
I had no appetite and this environment was not conducive to someone with a history of depression. I had replayed every moment of my life like a movie in my head. I had rehashed every terrible thing I had ever done because there was nothing available to distract me from the reality of what my life had become.
I had enough. I began thinking about how long I’d been in here and how many days were left. I thought about sitting here in silence with only my thoughts for another month in a half and it became incredibly overwhelming to imagine.
Very suddenly I began sweating, profusely. I curled up into a ball on the floor and my feet began tapping rapidly on the ground. I could hear my blood as it gushed through my veins each time my heart beat. It was becoming harder and harder to inhale the oxygen around me, the air felt hot and sticky.
A noise I didn’t recognize escaped my throat and I jumped to my feet with unexpected determination. I pushed my face to the glass on my door and began roaring, like a lion trapped in a cage.
I couldn’t control myself. I had officially lost my shit.
I pounded on the doors until my hands were sore and even then I continued slamming them into the metal. “SOMEBODY GET ME THE F*** OUT OF HERRRRRRRRRRRRRRE!”
No one came. There wasn’t a soul in sight. I started to break down crying but it was as if someone was controlling my emotions with a lever. The crying stopped just as suddenly as it began and was once again replaced with violent rage.
I began hurling my body into the door repeatedly. I figured maybe if I injured myself they would have no choice but to let me out of here. I would have stopped at nothing to step out of that room, even if just for a moment.
My mind was gone, all logic had disappeared. My sole focus was to free myself from this prison within a prison. Without hesitation, I began slamming my forearm onto the edge of the sink. I needed to break my arm. If I broke my arm they would have no choice but to take me to a hospital, I would be free.
I would choose immense pain over another minute in here in an instant. I was swinging my arm as if I was chopping wood, hammering it down onto the metal surface. I kept listening each time for the bone to snap, but it wasn’t happening. I began growing increasingly frustrated and started visually searching the room for another way.
The door to my cell suddenly swung up and a guard was in my face before I could turn my head to look.
“What the hell are you doing?” He asked, gripping my bad arm with immense pressure. “Please, please. I need to get out of here. I can’t take it”. His eyebrows furrowed and his eyes were wide. He was staring at me in shock at what he just witnessed through the window.
“If you are trying to kill yourself in here, we have to take you to the observation tank”,, he said, pulling me toward the door. The observation tank. I’d been there before. That was just as bad as this place except you are in a fishbowl and everyone can see you, naked, in your Velcro suit.
“NO! No, I’m not trying to kill myself, please. I don’t want to die. I mean, this place makes me kinda wanna die but I don’t, I really don’t want to. No one has come by my cell in days other than the trustees delivering food. I haven’t brushed my teeth in like two weeks, they keep saying they are gonna get me a toothbrush and never do. Sir, I’ve showered once, they are supposed to take me 3 times a week. I still don’t have a blanket, they never gave me one. Listen, they hate me and I can’t f***ing handle this. I’m losing it man”, I said pleadingly.
His eyebrows relaxed and he took a step back and loosened his grip. Just then another officer rushed in behind him and he turned to face her. “Hey, um, can you tell Rodriguez I’m coming down to talk to him in a sec, we are fine in here”. The woman nodded and exited the room as he swung his head back toward me and cocked it sideways.
“Is everything you just said to me true?”. He glanced passed me to my bed and noted that there was only a sheet. He turned to face the sink and saw there wasn’t a toothbrush or toothpaste in sight.
He finally let go of my arm and placed his hands on his hips. “You gotta be f***ing kidding me. Give me a minute, I’ll be right back.” He said, shaking his head and exiting the room.
I sat on the edge of my bed and my breathing began slow. Finally, someone had listened to me. I prayed this guy was coming back with a toothbrush and toothpaste, because even though I’d barely eaten, the plaque on my teeth felt like rocks. My hair was matted and oily and I had smelled like a jock strap for about a week now.
Once my heart rate returned to normal and the adrenaline had left my body, all of my aches and pains suddenly became very evident. I looked down at my arm and the entire length of my fore arm was swollen and beginning to bruise. I reached up to rub my shoulder when the door of my cell suddenly swung open.
The officer was back, but he was empty handed. My heart sunk.
He stared at me for a moment and took a few steps toward me. “Look, obviously you got yourself into this here mess and all but, I’m sorry about the um, the way things have gone since you’ve been up here. It’s not supposed to be like that. I talked to my superior about what’s been going on, and when he realized what you were in lock for, we both agreed that you have more than paid the consequences of your actions”.
I jumped up from the bed and he took a step back, placing his hand out to stop me from coming any further.
“I’m sorry. I am just excited… I think?. What exactly are you saying?” I asked, my heart beating with anticipation.
“I’m saying, we are gonna get you back to population”.
I began sobbing. I was overcome with relief and gratitude and if I didn’t think I’d get tazed, I would have jumped on him and kissed him on the lips. There were no words to describe how I felt. He rolled his eyes in response and headed toward the door. “You can sit here and cry, or you can come with me, your choice.”
I skipped out the door behind him. “No, no skipping“, he said holding up his hand. “No, I know, you’re right…Sorry.”
Once I was handcuffed, he began leading me toward population. He pushed the button on his radio and said “One incoming, medical“. I was confused, was he talking about me? He could tell I was looking at him because he turned to me. “We gotta take you by medical first, your arm is pretty bad. They will probably wanna give you a psych eval too before sending you to pop, just to make sure you don’t hurt anyone or yourself again.”
“Oh”. It made sense. I wasn’t even mad. I was grateful to be out of that dungeon. We arrived at the door of medical and while we waited for them to open it, he turned to me with a look of regret on his face. “I really am sorry about how things went up there, I’m planning on talking to a few people to see what happened. Probably a miscommunication.” Yeah, that was it.
The door popped open and he led me to medical cell 7. “Take care of yourself”, he said, opening the door. “Thank you, I will” I said smiling as he shut it behind me. I turned around to check out my new cell and was surprised to see another inmate. It had been so long, I was relieved to finally have someone to talk to.
She was asleep in the corner and I didn’t want to wake her, so I tip-toed to the bed across from her and laid down. I turned to face her to see what she looked like and when I caught a glimpse of her face my hand shot up over my mouth to keep from screaming.