Breathing Room

Aaron had always been claustrophobic.

It had started when he was five. His older brothers would roll him up in a large blanket, one longer than he was tall. WIth his arms pinned to his sides, the pressure across his chest would increase with each revolution of the spot of light at the end of his cylindric prison. Completely cocooned in the blanket, his brothers would wrap him in a second blanket, in the opposite direction.

Four or five blankets and Aaron would be screaming–his brothers would leave him like that, to unroll himself one slow turn after the other. If Aaron didn’t roll far enough to unwrap from a blanket, he would roll himself back up when he changed direction.

Junior high wasn’t any better. Aaron learned what the inside of a locker felt like: dark, cramped, no air. But he also learned to close his eyes to the darkness, to feel secure in his tight quarters, to control his breathing.

These new skills were helpful when he made it to high school. During the daily drills, Aaron realized the room beneath his desk was spacious and bright and with free-flowing air: it was comfortable.

These were the thoughts Aaron found comforting as the air raid sirens sounded…unscheduled.

There was time enough for the students to get into the school’s basement. As his classmates crammed tightly into the dark, directed by the teachers with hysteric voices, the push of writhing bodies increased the pressure on Aaron’s body–he was reminded of the tight blanket cocoon he had grown up in.

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