My short story "Eating Without Breathing" (inspired by CHOKE)
Hello my fellow Cult fanatics! I'd like to share with you a short story that I had written back in 2008. It's called "Eating Without Breathing" and it's an overly detailed exaggeration of two events that actually happened to me several years ago. I appreciate any feedback or comments, I'm very curious to know what you all think about it. THANKS!
Eating Without Breathing (written during 2007 & 2008)
There have been several times during the past decade when I had mistakenly sucked down my dinner while eating it very hastily. Usually this happens over the course of a casual meal, although there was another time that it happened while I was stoned. Once is more than enough for any person to feel the particular pain associated with choking; your fear of death is instantly achieved. Even though I usually don't want to inflict harm upon another person, I shall describe all the details of my deadly experience for you to digest.
The first time was a friendly, peaceful gathering of my family for our nightly meal together. We were all eating some freshly cooked lamb chops (bought by my dad, served by my mom) and my brother sat next to me (ALWAYS!) in order to complete our quartet. We were able to love each other's company for a little bit less than the time it took to settle into our seats. And then... I felt the door to my lungs suddenly close when a large piece of meat glued itself inside my throat.
I totally understood that this unwanted dilemma was self-inflicted. I had lodged myself within a room that had the words "MORTAL DANGER" written on the door. Of course, this was all due to my time in the Army, because the automatic eating habit which was ingrained upon my brain by that military institution had not left my mental conditioning. We got three square meals each day but only twenty minutes was allowed for us to eat. We never chewed our food during this limited amount of time. It took so long to get inside from the cold of January in Ohio, and then you had to wait in line to register your name, move behind someone again who led you to another line, grab some slippery silverware and plates dripping with scalding water, slide down the procession with all your utensils resting on a plastic tray, and finally shout whatever food you wanted piled upon your partial palate. Rush over to the closest table and secure the next available chair that you saw was empty, then fill your stomach with food. Smash the substance internally without even tasting it. Those twenty minutes, maybe twenty-five at the most, slipped by the face of your watch as easily as the scrambled eggs and toasted bread fell into your mouth.
I had always hurried through many important meals that were eaten with my family. It started when I was a little child. There were too many vital cartoons to watch, forget about pouring some extra sugar on top of my breakfast cereal. I didn't need any ketchup with my tater-tots; they were showing the Death Star battle from the end of the first "Star Wars" movie on cable TV that night. There's no need to say a prayer before we ate our Christmas meal, I wanted those milk and cookies consumed so I could rip into the prerequisite presents.
This same degenerating process caused my suffocation on the night of the lamb chop dinner. This is the casual meal I referred to at the beginning of my story. It was with the three members of my family on a regular weekday night, nothing too special or significant occurred until I made my ultimate mistake. It was a consequence of the material on my plate, plus my rush to leave and spend some time outside in the street with the locals of the neighborhood because they were the only ones I know who could get the magic little bag of intoxicating material which I had been craving all week long. So my mom dished out the food, her delightful display was really quite delectable, but my mind was distracted and distinctly thinking about distinguishing desire. Freshly cooked meat with an abundance of spices, pressure cooked potatoes that were soaked in their own juices, an overage of vegetables coated with sweet oil for maximum flavor... none of this could hold my attention. My central focus was upon escaping, I pictured myself popping outside the tenth story level of the apartment I shared with my family in order to soar all the way down to the street and meet my associates who were all prepared to get me high once again.
The only problem with this plan was my haphazard approach towards common eating etiquette. It would've been too easy to calmly consume the meal like a normal person that had a casual acquaintance waiting outside, but I was a man committed to a predetermined mission. There was a loaded gun placed directly next to the side of my skull, it kept urging me to eat faster, and the meat on my fork was not meant to be chewed, merely inhaled. So in-between the bullshit conversation, I attempted to engulf everything set on the table before me. The splendor, the succulent sanctuary of nutrition and natural vitamins, it was merely a distraction. I never attempted to explain my expedience in the process of consuming calories, but everyone at the table immediately assessed my constriction of self-destruction.
The final piece of meat that I had been barely chewing was now stuck in the center of my breathing tube. It was too big to be swallowed, and the sensitive muscles inside my esophagus were protesting their predicament by sending my sensory receptors great amounts of pain. I could still taste the juices of the morsel settling on top of my tongue, but there was no possible way for me to swallow any of my spit thanks to the gigantic chunk of lamb lodged between my digestive pit and the airy entrance of my body. I noticed how my family was staring at me; they all had a small amount of alert caution residing inside of their eyes. What was I going to do next? Only then would one of them react.
So my next step was almost my last. The simple action of lifting my drink and pouring a slight amount of orange juice into my mouth didn't create any ignorance from the associates surrounding me. The cool substance swirled and swished slightly, it splashed along the roof of my mouth before settling down by my gums. I replaced the drinking glass onto the table, closed my lips and then tilted my head back. Of course, this was all done without any consideration, or else I would have realized the ten seconds that had passed without any breathing would not be recovered by an attempt to moisten the food still settled within my wind socket.
The watery substance couldn't advance down my throat past the lamb to get to my belly; it merely rested gently on top of the food. My eyes shifted to observe invisible angels, they were hiding in the corners of the kitchen, and I tried once again to swallow. The food didn't move at all, but the juice decided to explode upwards. I saw the white linen on the table become suddenly peppered with orange spittle, and then a long stream of drool dribbled out of my mouth. Nothing internally had changed regarding my precarious predicament, but the involvement of my audience interaction had excelled. My father glared at the mess I was making, but he had no intention of intervening. My mother was more alert; her gaze hadn't left my face since the deadly dilemma was initiated. She shouted from the opposite end of the table, "Oh my God, he's CHOKING!" which prompted my brother to perform the life-saving extrication.
Baby bro rose from his chair and was behind me before I saw him even start to think about moving. I casually stood in synchronization with his grip upon the center of my chest. At this point, the blockage of air in my lungs had exceeded all other elements. I found out after the fact that my facial skin tone had gone from NORMAL to FLUSHED to BRIGHTENED (but not in a holy sort of way) and then it became a DULL BLUE before I was lifted into my position of expulsion. The younger son had risen to the occasion, his palms pressed into my plexus, and the pound of flesh within my air passage was about to be cleared.
I felt the skin crack inside my esophagus as the disastrous piece of food was being disgorged. My mouth-juice was suddenly mixed with a touch of stomach acid. It tasted incredibly disgusting to have these unknown liquids combining with the wad of meat as it continued to be projected on an indirect reverse course. The second and final push against my middle caused the never-digested food to pop out, it plopped onto my plate next to the other uneaten food but I could barely see it through the watery tears spilling from my quivering eyeballs.
My brother's clasp was released and I crashed back into my chair while letting out an enormous gasp of air. It felt intensely painful to be able to breathe again, as if grains of sand and sticks of wet wood were swimming with the phlegm and bile that moved up and down behind the space where my Adam's apple continually jiggled. I saw my arms shaking violently as my upper body convulsed several times. I coughed out one last spurt of mysterious think jelly, felt it slowly soak onto the space where my shirt was already sticking to my stomach, and then I dipped my head forward gingerly while reaching for the edge of the table in order to grab its tangible surface and use its grounding energy to restore myself to full power.
* * * * *
The second time that I nearly choked to death was inside of a convenience store shortly after smoking a pipe full of glorious green granules that my very good friend Joe had bestowed upon me. He was there to witness my intense act of choking along with another guy named Mark, his cousin. There was also one other person, a young lady from my neighborhood. She was Joe's beautiful girlfriend, one of those truly amazing specimens of the female form. This girl was so stunning that she hurts your eyes if you looked at her for too long.
All four of us were stumbling nonchalantly through Mark's part of the city. There was no specific destination sought nor did I think we'd ever properly determine one during the course of our nonsensical sauntering.
Sometimes we'd hang out around this dirty park bench which overlooked a filthy river and separated our side of the city from the rest of the mainland, and some other times we'd go inside this semi-empty parking lot to see if any of the cars or trucks there had been left unlocked in order for us to slip inside of them and smoke some more. But this time, we were already feeling brutally burnt on our nocturnal normalcy and it was suggested (maybe by me) that some junk food had to be swiftly consumed for us to sufficiently succeed in wasting more time ambling amongst the random edifices with their noxious neon signs leaking various messages into the sides of our vision.
So then we came upon the local 24-hour convenience store, its doors would never lock themselves to our continuous case of consistent craving. Everyone went inside and I was the only person amongst my friends that waved to the brown-skinned clerk sitting behind the counter. He smiled politely back at me but then the features of his face changed into a wary glance of suspicion which he pointed towards my allies. They remained near the front of the store slowly picking their fingers across everything: Mark was flipping through the gridlocked arrangement of glossy magazines, Joe grabbed at all the crinkling bags of bright yellow corn chips, and Joe's girlfriend decided she had to touch every multi-colored plastic bottle with the words "ENERGY DRINK" written vertically down its side.
I subconsciously picked up some random candy while walking towards the back of the store, and then I grabbed some chilled iced-tea out of a large cooler leaning against the wall. I twisted my neck backward and shouted, "Any of you guys wanna DRINK?" My friends replied with mumbled negation. I noticed that the guy behind the counter was still looking at them so I popped open the cap from my bottle, blatantly swallowed several times, and smacked my lips loud enough for everyone to hear.
The clerk completely ignored me. I followed the other man's gaze with more intention. It became very clear to me that he wasn't leering at my group of friends because he thought they might shoplift. Instead, I saw that he was definitely checking out Joe's girlfriend... I recognized the look in his eyes, they were shining with the exact same electrical explosions I'd felt while staring at her on many prior occasions.
I then decided to push my luck a little bit more. I felt the plastic packet of candy in my hand, raised it in front of my face, and saw that it contained two chocolate covered peanut-butter patties. A brilliant (and nearly fateful) idea entered my mind. My brain had quickly worked up a way to block the eyes of this stranger and inhibit his lurid thoughts.
I moved back to where they were still standing, placed my body in front of the pretty woman and grabbed her attention by executing the ridiculous (and soon to be deadly) idea I had just concocted. "Watch THIS!" was all the direction I needed to give her as I proceeded to shove a piece of the still-unpaid-for-candy into my mouth. The peanut and chocolate combination collided against all of my teeth, flattened my tongue, scraped the roof of my mouth, and the edges of it started to melt along my gums. Joe's girl cringed at me as my jaw opened wider than usual to accommodate the massive mouthful. Both Joe and Mark began to laugh at the strained appearance of my face as I slowly attempted to wrap my mouth around the melting piece of chocolate.
As I'm sure you can already guess... this is the part where I made my mistake. In order to impress the enamoring darling standing directly before me by showing her how big my mouth could open, I neglected to chew the food that was stuffed inside me and instead I tried to swallow it whole. Sure enough, the sweet treat snaked down my throat until it reached a familiar part near the middle of my neck, and that's when its sideways angle caused it to become stuck in the identical spot as the lamb.
The bigger problem this time was the solubility of the substance I had swallowed. The lamb morsel had a slightly chewy consistency since it was a spit-soaked object. But this time I had shoved a whole sugar coated hockey puck into my body. This time I knew that I was going to die.
I hastily changed my silly grin into an expression of confusion, and this caused the two guys to laugh even more at me. The attractive female standing between them became immediately concerned. She looked up and saw a small pinch of panic forming along my hairline, and this profound feeling of fear rolled down onto my forehead, then it scooped over my eyebrows where it eventually fell into my eyes. I sent a pleading gaze at her, begging the beautiful girl to understand the suicidal error I'd just committed.
Thankfully, women are smarter than men. Joe's girlfriend recognized the severity of my deadly situation and she acted just like my mother. "Oh my God," she yelled, "he's CHOKING!" Joe stopped smiling as soon as he heard the alarming words inside her piercing scream as an actual cry for help. His idiot cousin just kept on laughing at me.
Joe was instantly standing behind me with his arms around my body. He had one hand tightened into a fist with the thumb pushing against the area directly below my breast bone, and his other hand was flattened on top of the first. I'm a lot taller than him so I bent my knees a little in order to accommodate his height requirement. Right before Joe attempted the initial Heimlich, I noticed that I'd stopped breathing and everything had become very blurry. There were some hazy shades of darkness along the edge of my eyesight which caused everything in front of me to be seen within a dull tunnel of light. I thought I was going to pass out; possibly I'd fall backwards onto Joe as he tried to squeeze the obstruction out of me.
Fortunately, Joe's strength was more than enough to keep the both of us standing during the extraordinary ordeal. He not only squished my center in order to expel the food stuck inside, but Joe was also able to hoist me more than four inches off the ground. I made a very loud and strangled sound, maybe I tried to cough, and my weakened body flailed its rubbery limbs through the air. Joe still held me up within his powerful grip as he peeked around and saw that the food hadn't come out yet, so he settled me down back onto the ground right before he crushed my abdomen really hard and hoisted my entire body even higher than before.
That did it. I unceremoniously spat the large piece of chocolate straight down (I noticed that it had no teeth marks on its surface) followed by some of the iced-tea that was swimming in my stomach (I remember that the juice was still cold as it poured past limply hanging tongue) and then I dry-heaved a few times while attempting to suck in some oxygen. Joe released himself from my middle and used his hands to steady my slowly swaying body. I gagged a few more times before it felt like I would be able to breathe normally. I spit onto the floor of the store once more before awkwardly dragging my feet towards the sliding glass doors.
Out in the street again, I patiently moved away from everyone (barely hearing the string of foreign curses coming at me from the clerk) while my mouth hung open; there were little rivers of drool falling everywhere. Since I was hunched over, I could see the thin lines of my saliva swaying with each step. I rolled my eyes ahead and saw a small alley available for me to rest and recover. I pushed my whole body against the graffiti covered wall and just stood there for a long time, slowly gasping and trying to concentrate only on my next inhalation.
Eventually, my friends ran outside and joined me. One of them even thought enough to bring me a tissue for all the viscous sludge attached to my lips. I wiped it all away and threw the soft wet paper onto the filthy concrete street. I stared at the three people briefly before firmly nodding my thanks at Joe. He smiled back at me and curled an arm around his girlfriend's waist, easing her perfect shape a little closer onto him.
Joe's cousin lifted a finger to get everyone's attention. He opened his mouth to say something but whatever it was soon drowned within the din created by our surrounding city. I'd already turned away from him and started heading further down the street, concentrating only on putting one foot in front of the next, doing all that I could to appreciate the miraculous gift of life since I'd already twice tasted a bittersweet mouthful of regurgitated death.
"Roaring dreams take place in a perfectly silent mind." Jack Kerouac