I Saw The Light

I couldn’t breathe. Not in, not out.

With my airways blocked, I couldn’t yell for help, either. I couldn’t even squeak for help. My lungs were as useless as Congress in a fiscal crisis. Something had gone terribly wrong while I was swallowing my vitamins.

My life flashed behind my eyes. I know, I was expecting it to flash before my eyes, too. But that’s the problem with clichés. Sometimes you can’t rely on them to perform as expected, not even in an emergency.

I liked the light at the end of the tunnel.

So I stood there watching the documentary of me. The film was a lot shorter than I expected. Grainier, and poorly edited, too. Think Night of the Lepus, circa 1972. Nothing wrong with a movie about giant, mutant, carnivorous killer rabbits, mind you. Classic B-rate science fiction. It’s just that I expected something more colorful, and gripping. Something along the lines of Avatar 3D, but with an actual plot and a lot more gratuitous nudity. Instead, it was boring. So dull that for a moment I felt grateful my life was ending. I didn’t just float toward the light, I sprinted.

Then, from somewhere deep in my throat, a gurgling sound.

My wife, Kerry, whirled around, saw that I was choking, and prepared to give me the Heimlich Manuever.

Then, more gurgling, and a gasp. It was water stuck in my throat, not a pill. I relaxed, and it slowly began clearing. I waved Kerry off, fighting for air.

This is ironic, I thought. Vitamins are supposed to make me feel better, not kill me. That’s why I dutifully take a handful of them before I go to bed every night.

I was standing at the kitchen window staring wistfully at the distant moon — I love the moon — when it happened. I was, in fact, waiting for it to happen. I wait for it to happen every night because I’m too impatient to take my vitamins one or two at a time. Instead, I swallow ten to twelve of them all at once, like a circus freak. I know it’s risky, but my pill-swallowing routine has become the biggest thrill of my day, and a matter of personal pride. Normally, it works out fine. Maybe I get a little indigestion from the garlic pill, or a bad taste in my mouth from the cod liver oil in the vitamin D. Unpleasant, but not life-threatening.

This time, I thought I’d finally blown it. Dishonorably offed myself with 1,000 International Units of encapsulated vitamin E.

Imagine the shame of seeing that finding on the coroner’s report.

But I was breathing again. I was all right.

This is what my vitamins are supposed to do for me. It's not working. And you're welcome, straight female and gay male readers. I strive to serve.

Kerry looked relieved. A self-proclaimed expert on natural health, she prepares my daily cocktail of vitamins and herbs. She says they’re supposed to make me less grumpy, improve my ability to remember things like my phone number and, generally speaking, make me look like Mr. December in New York City’s 2012 firemen’s calendar. You know, the shirtless guy on the cover who apparently extinguishes apartment fires with mighty blasts of wind that he creates by rapidly flexing his well-defined pecks.

They’re also supposed to extend my life, although I’m not entirely sure why she wants to do that since I’m so ill-tempered, senile and ugly. It isn’t like I made us rich by inventing the iPad, either. Or even the Insta-Hang, the easiest way to put thumbtacks into a wall since the thumb. Most days, I just sit around muttering obscenities at the television, or sighing forlornly.

But Kerry seems to want me to live, and I don’t argue with her. It would be pointless to argue with her anyway. I haven’t won an argument with her since…well, since ever. I lost my first argument with her — over the appropriate volume for playing power chords on a electric guitar in a dorm room — before we even formally met, and my debate skills haven’t improved over time.

I can’t say I gained any valuable insights from my near-death experience. I don’t even care that I didn’t. I still regularly risk my life by taking my vitamins a handful at a time.

I guess I’m a thrill-seeker at heart.

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70 thoughts on “I Saw The Light

  1. Eurika!!!!!
    You take vitamines at night! No wonder you have insomnia! I always get a little boost of energy when I take vitimines, and they make me feel better when I’m hung over. (which is rare)

    Oh, yeah, your life…. Sorry you almost died. What’s protocol for that? Am I supposed to plant a tree or something? I did yesterday, it’s a weeping willow, you’re welcome.

  2. A couple points: I frequently get confused when breathing. Like, is it in, then out, or out, then in? It’s the order that baffles me.
    Life passed behind your eyes…now that’s funny.
    Blast of wind by muscle-flexing fireman…ditto.
    Muttering obscenities at the TV, sighing forlornly…now there’s a life you can be proud of.
    You are a joy to read.

    • Agreed, June. Add to that the magnitude of the breath — deep, shallow, rapid, slow — and it’s almost overwhelming in scope. I don’t know how we get by.

      • Watch a Pilates video and listen to the instructor. “In through the nose, out throught the nose. Now twist your body into a contortion EMTs will find amusing when they finally arrive days after someone notices you are missing.”

  3. Michael, first, what in the tar hell are you doing shoving a bunch of pills in your mouth at the same time? That in itself is a recipe for disaster. And you are lucky you have a wife who loves you because I would apply the Karate kick to the middle of your shoulder blades to clear your blockage. As soon as I saw you were breathing I’d follow that first kick up to one in your ass to clear any other blockages that you might have. The stupidity of males astounds me. Alex chokes on water frequently. I’ve told him to stick to beer, but will he listen? Oh hell no.

    Another thing, those muscle bound pretty boys really don’t do that much for me. I prefer the firemen who are built more like a fireplug. They are more sturdy to my way of thinking. Heiress Lillian Coit apparently thought so too when she erected “Coit Tower” as her tribute to firemen. (Of course, it was rumored that she was actually celebrating firefighter’s hoses with that structure, but she’s dead now, so who knows.)

    Maybe tension is making you choke. You ought to go get a nice massage or something.

  4. I will forever think of you every time I choke. Which always seems to be on beer. I’m sure there are several connections on that one. Well, that and Jager bombs. But that’s just because they are disgusting.

    I start at my pills every morning with disdain. I know I have to take them. I know if I don’t do it as soon as I wake up then I will probably forget. But still. I’m sure I make a face every morning. I use my travel water bottle. It has a really wide mouth and really helps.
    Thanks for the fireman. There aren’t a whole lot of attractive people here in the Midwest.

    • Funny you should say that Liz, Henry said when he was in Chicago, there wasn’t one pretty girl there, I didn’t believe him, your comment makes me a believer.

      • He wasn’t exaggerating. I was dressed to go to a wedding, and I received six or seven compliments in a sports bar and at the grocery store on how nice I looked. From complete strangers. And it’s a pretty dress, but not that pretty.

        And it’s also why I’m convinced I can’t find a hair stylist worth the paper their cosmetology license is printed on.

  5. When I began reading, I was sure you were going to write that your clogged drain progressed to full pill esophagitis; relieved for you that it didn’t, as it can mimic (and even bring on) a heart attack. Worst hour of my life.

  6. Sorry that you almost choked, but glad that Kerry would have helped rather than let you see the other side. The only time I have ever REALLY choked was in a restaurant immediately after having my bridal portrait taken. The whole restaurant was silent and staring at me and all I could think was “well at least they’ll have a good picture to remember me by.”

    • Now, see, that’s what’s funny about this. Here you are dying. You ought to be thinking, “Oh, I’m going to miss my family,” or “God, I’m sorry for all the many, many bad things I did.” But instead, you’re worried about how you look. It tells me that life is cheap, even if we want to believe otherwise.

      • What in the world are you talking about? – “bad stuff I did”… I have no recollection of any bad stuff…besides, I was a self absorbed bride ending a wretched 13 month engagement, what else was I supposed to think about?

        Now about that firefighter – I must need to move because none of the guys that responded to my house looked anything like that!!

  7. Thanks for Mr. December and his hotness. Lovely.


    But back to my point. Hubby has a huge mouth and tries to swallow all his pills at once, too. You guys are crazy. I have to take them one at a time and sometimes I want to cut that dang fish oil monstrosity in half!

    I’m thinking Kerry was really wanting to hit you. :)

  8. You’re not supposed to take vitamins at night, you ninny. You take your vitamins in the morning when you need the energy for the day. You take your MINERALS at night because that’s when they help you rest and regenerate cells and stuff like that. So now you don’t have to shoved them all down your throat at once. Half in the morning and half at night.

    I don’t know why Kerry wants you to live either. The woman’s a damn saint.

  9. I admit, I do this too. Though I dump my vitamins into the palm of my hand and sort of shake them into a throat-friendly queue, the way some people eat a handful of peanuts. If I ever do meet my untimely demise at the hands of that which is supposed to preserve me, you can blame the flaxseed oil capsules. They’re HUGE.

  10. “I couldn’t breathe. Not in, not out.”

    I hate when that happens. It’s not so bad when you can’t breathe in or you can’t breathe out but it totally sucks when you can’t do either.

  11. Just be grateful that moon stayed distant. If it had been hit with by an asteroid so dense that it got knocked out of its orbit?

    You might have died.

    No matter how few vitamins you took.

    A moon that gets too close? Not a good thing for the planet. Tsunamis, earthquakes, and volcanoes. Nothing like a good dystopic novel to cheer the psyche up.

    (Yes, I’ve been reading books!)

  12. I’m a pill gulper, too. Food bores me. It’s why I can’t eat salad — or at least, why I can’t eat a whole salad. First there’s that whole thing of putting leaves, which are about 1/10th of an ansgrom thick, on a hard plate and then trying to stick a fork into them. Just getting a bite takes forever. Then when you do, well — it’s a freakin’ leaf, for crying out loud. And then you have to chew it for, like, half an hour. I get a quarter of the way through a salad and then start begging. “Can I have some food now? Please? Give me food. Some food would be good.”

    Anyhow, the point is, taking pills one by one just takes too long. Taking them a handful at a time is far more efficient. And even if they kill you, you’ve still probably had a more active life than those who waste entire minutes at a time taking each pill separately.

    Also, I’m really glad you lived.

    • Finally, somebody who understands my hatred of salad. I don’t mind vegetables, just salad. It’s stupid food. You burn more calories making and eating than it contains. Lettuce is for displaying shrimp or chicken wings, not eating.

    • Seriously! I have said it so many times, I like salad, but I just get tired of chewing it, I’m not a cow! I would rather eat rice one grain at a time with a single chop stick than to try to stab lettuce with a fork, they need to make a salad spork that works like pliers so I can shovel that shit in and get it over with.
      Hey! New invention, who wants to “loan” me some venture capital?

      • Madge, you may have hit on something here. A specialized salad utensil. Somebody needs to call Sur La Table and make sure it doesn’t already exist. If not, then maybe Obama will fund the factory to help bring jobs back to American soil. We were once the world’s best and proudest utensil manufacturers.

      • I have had some success with chopsticks and salad. Of course, you cut up the salad first. But then I also cut up my spaghetti. Never could see the point of all that twirling and whirling stuff, especially since half the sauce gets left behind.

        Also — that should be “angstrom,” not “ansgrom.” (I was typing fast. And it was late. And I was typing fast.

        Which brings to mind another food story. I was at a bar a number of years ago with a relatively famous psychic-type-guy and one of his disciples. When the subject of microwaves came up, the disciple said, “Microwave ovens are not good for food. They kill the angstroms in it.” When I asked how he’d come by that knowledge he looked pleased and said he’d just “channelled” it. So I told him that angstroms were a unit of measurement, and that he’d basically just said that microwave ovens killed the inches in food.

        The relatively famous psychic-type-guy had the grace to look embarrassed.

        But anyhow — yeah. Chopsticks. They can work.

        Also V8 juice. Much better way of eating a salad.

        • I love a good salad. You guys are goofs! What is there not to like about a crisp clean salad topped with a fresh dressing! I love avocados, tomatoes, baby lettuce, toasted almonds, red onions, home made garlic croutons. All of it is delish!!!

  13. I’m sorry did you post something important? I was looking at the Firefighter. He’s yummy.
    I think you are suppose to take vitamins in the morning.
    Will you be posting each months Firefighter picture? Just wondering.

    • Okay, after several years of blogging and longing for better stats, I think I finally hit the right formula to attract readers: Words, blah, blah, blah, HALF-NAKED FIREFIGHTER!, more words, blah, blah, blah.

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