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BN Prose: Breathe by Obiora Ngene



Do you have that feeling sometimes? It’s hard to put it into words… but…this is how I feel.

I want to run… and scream. But, then I also want the silence to take me and fold me.

It’s a feeling of rage; it the greatest type and form you can imagine, but I want to maintain an angelic composure.

This feeling… like being broken into a million pieces  – a fragile piece of glass. It’s a feeling of wanting to breathe. No, needing to breathe.

Ingrid Michaelson’s Keep Breathing. Yes, that song. It’s the one that helps me when I feel this way. It’s what gets me through the times when I picture myself running from a house caught in wild hot flames. Running through the rooms trying to find my escape as the wooden structures fall apart behind me. Running, while cradling my 9 month-old baby

People are dying, I close my blinds, all that I know is Im breathing.

I am breaking through the front door, as the house becomes fully engulfed in flames. Burning.

I don’t stop running; the song is still playing in my head. And I am running. My tangled hair and unwashed face don’t matter. Running in my pajamas and my oversized slippers but I don’t care.

All we can do is keep breathing.

Maybe it’s because today is just another day for me. Today,  it’s a black cotton dress, with a collar in a darker shade of black. A thin black belt cinches my waist, black stockings and black shoes. All done. Head to toe.  The only missing things are the black gloves on the dresser right in front of me.

The moment I decide to slide my hands through the rough cotton texture of the gloves would mean finally acknowledging that it has happened. It would mean acknowledging every emotion as being real. So I sat there, staring at the gloves.

Seconds turned into short minutes, and then long minutes and all I did was stare. Here I was in this room that I had chosen not to be in since it happened- since that morning, when everything fell apart like a set of dominoes. Only this time it was not a game. It was real life.

My life.

Pictures that were in the room had since been taken out. The few left behind were placed face down on the table. Everything that reminded me of that day or anything close to it was far away from sight. Everything, even the crib we had spent hours trying to build.

Knock, knock.

Someone had finally come upstairs. I’d been here for long; maybe too long. I wanted to remain there longer. It wasn’t time to put on the gloves… not yet at least. There would never be a perfect time for it. The knocking continued a second, and then a third time.

“I’m coming in…”

I didn’t say anything. All I wanted to do today was lie on my bed in my black attire. I didn’t want to walk downstairs, I didn’t want to meet people. I didn’t want the sun to kiss my cheeks lightly, I didn’t want the gentle breeze to run through my hair. I didn’t want to smell the flowers that were set out downstairs. I didn’t want a lot of things, and mostly I didn’t want to wear the gloves, the black gloves.

“We.. have to go downstairs…” the man who appeared through the door said. He was dressed in a black suit and a tie to match. I didn’t look at him when he came in. I didn’t want to.

He walked over to me first and waited for a little bit; waiting for some movement from me, a reaction or anything but all I did. I didn’t budge.

He picked up the little black gloves on the table and sat down with me for a little while. My expression was the same, unmoving. It wasn’t real… yet.

“We…have to go…” he said again, as he stretch his arm across my shoulder.

“She…she’s gone….isn’t she? ” I said. My voice sounded familiar. Tired and drained of emotion.

“Yes…she’s been gone for a while.” he replied.

I couldn’t explain why it hit me then, not immediately but slowly. The domino pieces were falling; one by one they were crashing.

It started with the lone tear trailing down my face. Then it came cascading down. Everything was falling apart. As the tear poured, he held me. I felt his hug, tighter.

In my head, the song played all we can do is keep breathing over and over.

I was not running out of a burning house. I was not saving myself. I was not saving the baby. I was not running away from everything I feared. No more running. It was real. It happened. Death happened. All we can do is keep breathing, I heard the drums over and over as the tears fell and the song was nearing its end.

“Let’s go then…I said slowly.

He let go a little bit, making sure I looked ok. I wasn’t, but I had to be. So I picked up the little black gloves, the last piece of the puzzle, the last domino piece to fall, the last piece of confirmation. And I put both of them on.

All I can do is keep breathing I said to myself as I walked downstairs, and that’s what I did.

I kept breathing.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime | William Moss

A Nigerian  born twenty four old who is still looking for the missing pieces to complete the puzzle that is also life.  Writing is my way of sharing a little bit of myself with the world in terms of how I see things.  This could be similar to dance, music.Visit his blog at


  1. lanya

    October 7, 2014 at 9:30 am

    cant say i knw wat d pain of loss feels like but dis got me almost in tears

  2. Zama

    October 7, 2014 at 11:03 am

    I pray and wish to never experience the loss of a child/children. I can’t fathom the pain. Profound writing.

  3. Dr. N

    October 7, 2014 at 1:03 pm

    Profoundly moving

  4. D

    October 7, 2014 at 1:14 pm

    So profound…I have never lost a child and pray never to but recently lost a loved one and the first week was a blur. I just kept telling myself to breathe and put the next foot forward because i knew if I should stop everything would fall apart. Smiling when all you want to do is just cave in to that darkness deep inside yet knowing you need to get rid of that darkness but not knowing how. Some days are better than some but yes you just have to keep breathing.


    October 7, 2014 at 1:37 pm

    It’s never happened but I know it will someday; the loss of a loved one. I don’t even bother trying to prepare myself for the pain because I know no matter how much I do, it will all be useless when inevitable death of a loved one occurs.
    However, I pray and believe (with faith) that I will never bury one of my offspring. Amen.

    Obiora this is a beautiful piece. It’s not often I’m moved to tears by something I read.

  6. ILMO

    October 7, 2014 at 6:39 pm

    I did cry. Maybe because I still do at least once a week, because something always triggers it. I get the feeling. I always wanna scream. They lied you know, time doesn’t heal all wounds. It only makes the pain dull, a dull ache. Losing a loved one is never easy. Mine has been 2 years, and it still feels like yesterday. The images are clear in my head, and I am still searching for an outlet.
    Thanks for this piece. hugss to all those who have lost someone and are still trying to breathe.

  7. Anonimo

    October 7, 2014 at 10:04 pm

    My loss has only been a few months…U keep wondering if it’s a dream

  8. mrdalloway

    October 7, 2014 at 10:21 pm

    That song is so powerful, heard it first on Greys s3 finale and for so many years, it’s been of immense help.

  9. Chisky

    October 8, 2014 at 4:08 am

    Nice piece. First thing to do after reading this is download and listen to the Keep Breathing track.

  10. troublemaker

    October 8, 2014 at 8:16 am

    Talent! hope you keep up the good work Mr Ngene

  11. Cleos

    October 8, 2014 at 3:38 pm

    Deep…very deep…Good one

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