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As a recipient of a 24-hour lock down with the COVID-19 viral pandemic, my fear and paranoia is at an all-time high. No alternative it seems is made for those of us who need to vent about our fears. 

This fear is spoken in the confessional booth, aka the vent that connects our vents. I express them when the American Prison Writing Archive gives my body a voice and a chance to ask for help. The world should see this, yet to be honest it does not matter, right? Worlds are colliding when I am only worried about the officers’ lives, because they could possibly bring the COVID-19 into here to me. What about my one lung, my asthma, open thoracic surgery, craniotomy, and a tracheostomy? This is me — Christopher Reginald Cox Jr — 441292, 2390623. What of the fact my medical file says I was sent out in 2019 twice for respiratory issues in an ambulance? Do officials know my life matters? These are questions that are whispered through the confessional booths.

The medical unit here is running around so much that they’re short of staff. I feel for them because they too are lost. How can they treat someone that is allergic to Flagyl, Ciprol and Penicillin, the antibiotics that are available here? So now Medical is afraid to give me meds, so do I suffer or what? Chocolate, fish, seafood and Ibuprofen are added to this list. Should Medical be prepared to encounter that number one inmate and say we need to do our research or should they just place me in a bubble?

How can prison improve? I don’t know. Yet this is not a complaint, this is a cry. I tattooed teardrops on my face at the age of 17 because I no longer wanted to shed tears. They threaten to fall now because of the anger that is in my heart. The strongest part of my body is my mind. So when I say I love APWA for this chance it is said with my mind because it is strong. The weakness is the heart in my chest because I don’t understand the policies and procedures that are constantly broken. Confusion scares me. Uncertainty scares us. Unanswered voices are the here, present, and now! It is here, present and now… My hands shake so I must stop.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

Chris.X is a writer incarcerated in Maryland.