JJ’s parents have always been nice to me ever since he was bedridden in a car accident a few years ago and I came over every week to game with him or often just to talk. Appreciating my loyalty to their son, they always welcomed me into their home with a smile and often with a few of Mrs. Enslow’s delicious biscuits.
The family driveway greeted me with a Bush/Cheney sign. I drove down their dirt driveway, shocked at their political leanings but knowing that bringing it up would be fruitless and frustrating. Above their door and on their mini-van’s back bumper is a sticker that proclaims, “YOU NEED JESUS.”
JJ took a shower while I packed up the car, since we were in a rush. Mrs. Enslow offered me a biscuit and I happily chomped away while taking JJ’s bag to my car.
Then I found it difficult to breath. The biscuit went down heavily, I put his bags in the car and took a long swig of water, thinking it would wash the biscuit down.
When choking, there is no worse feeling than trying to drink the stuck bit the rest of the way down and find that it only fills your throat and windpipe up with water. Water filled my throat and a gurgling sound came soon after. I couldn’t cough, couldn’t talk. I couldn’t breath. Some of the water spilled out of my mouth and I thought to myself about how much I hate this sensation.
When I was in fifth grade my mother did the Heimlich Maneuver and saved my life as I turned blue due to an overly ambitious bite of chicken.
But this past Friday, while choking on the Enslow biscuit in rural upstate New York, my mother was 220 miles and one political world away.
I stumbled back towards the Enslow home and the bumper sticker’s letters stared down at me. I won’t die here. I won’t die with that fucking sign staring down at me. It occured to me in that moment, as it only can during the intensity and adrenaline of a near-death experience, that perhaps God, or even Jesus was sending me a message.
Wrong message. Try a burning bush next time
Mrs. Enslow, JJ’s infant son and a family friend were in the living room but hadn’t noticed me out in the rain yet. I wondered if they would realize what was wrong, if they could help me or if they would just watch me turn blue and die. One thing, I decided, I’d try one thing before going in and gambling.
Remembering my junior high health class with eerie clarity, I balled my hand up into a fist and approached a sturdy lawn chair. I stumbled to the chair and put my fist on the back-support. I heaved my stomach onto my fist, doing the Heimlich Maneuver on myself just as my junior high health teacher taught me.
I vomited out the water that had filled my throat and the biscuit exploded out like a soggy musket ball soon after.
With vomitish water on my chin, I entered into the Enslow home. I shuffled on still uneasy feet past the sticker: YOU NEED JESUS.
Not today. Today I needed Heimlich.
Heimlich or my mother.