The retired ballerina on the radio had just been commenting how all that we take for granted can change in an instant. And I walked out of earshot and inhaled the half-caplet of acid I was supposed to be swallowing.
It lodged loosely at the entry to my windpipe. I stopped; I stooped; and the world shrank to the size of a pinky-tip as I gently attempted to inhale enough air around to expel it. The portal, however, was constricting from the irritation of the acid.
It’s true. I take acid every day.
Betaine Hydrochloride: in order to properly digest and assimilate protein.
One day’s medicine can be another day’s poison.
All the predictable half-thoughts fired and swirled past the pinhole of my attention: about living, dying and being more grateful and more mindful. But none could find purchase and rest. I was just watching my body intent on surviving, summoning all its miraculous intelligence to do so. And in some seconds—10? 20? maybe 30, very full seconds, the crisis was averted. The chunk popped back into the correct chute, clambering to restore its medicinal status, as incredulous and assertive swallowing ensued. Then came the coughing and the watering eyes and the relief and the disorientation.
I wasn’t afraid of dying, but the instinct to correct a mistake goes deep. The body took over and I did what I could to support it.
They say we all die alone. And, yes, I noted, to the separate self on this side of the veil, it looks that way. Although there was someone else in the house, right out of earshot: behind a shut door, next to a fan and hard of hearing, I knew he would hear neither my psychic SOS, nor my guttural coughing, nor even a fall to the floor, had it come to that. And if he did, he likely wouldn’t be concerned. I was aware of the irony and the momentary strange and vexed aloneness. It registered as it passed me like a black hole alongside the cosmic rollercoaster I was on.
The impression echoes still, unceremoniously, somewhere in my chest.
The day was quickly back to relative normal, however, save for a tickle in the throat…and disrupted digestion. I won’t be taking any pills for that just now, thank you very much.