Thursday, November 13, 2008

Hard Candy

Gabrielle choked on a lollipop last week. I gave it to her. I unwrapped it and handed it to her.

She was sitting between me and Corrine on the couch, after supper. She wasn't jumping around. She wasn't even moving.

There was just this sickening sound and the instant realization that she had swallowed it - stick and all. Press your tongue to the roof of your mouth and, keeping pressure, try to peel the back of your tongue away. It makes a peculiar noise from the back of the esophagus. Some people do it to scratch an itchy throat.

Corrine said it first but we both knew she was choking. Gabi seized up and began whimpering and shaking. I grabbed her with my left arm, bent her over and began pounding the middle of her back. She peed through her diaper and all over the couch. I reached into her mouth and she bit down hard on my thumb. I couldn't feel the lollipop.

I resumed pounding. Gabi was crying, a heaving, distressful grunting. Her body was hot in my hand. I was cognizant of the smell of supper; the sound of the television - a blurry noise, no acute details to what was on; there was a white hot heat in my ears; I saw stars at the edges of my eyes.

Corrine grabbed her by the jaw and reached into her mouth. In an instant she had the lollipop out and Gabi screamed. There was a little blood.

I grabbed her and held her and rubbed her back. For my own selfish reasons. And I felt a spike of anger and wanted to kick out the living room window or throw a chair. It was a sudden fury that subsided when I handed her to her mother. Gabi cried and then vomited her supper onto the floor.

For awhile after - a full day even - I had sudden waves of emotion. The full spectrum: numbing fear to anger to guilt and finally to deep, consuming sadness. The chest-ache kind.

It has taken me a week to write about it.

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