Nightmares — the awake AND asleep varieties

“Are you … counting the number of times you chew your food?” Smarmy Bastard asked last weekend, laughing in half-disbelief.

“Sort of,” I admitted sheepishly. There was no trying to deny it because, as SB had heard earlier in the week (and responded with a “What the f––– is wrong with you?” text), while I was in New York I had another near-miss with choking on my food.

At a client dinner last Tuesday, I ordered a steak, got too caught up in conversation, didn’t chew everything well enough, swallowed … and got a piece wedged in my throat. Luckily I could still breathe, but all food and even liquid was blocked, as I discovered when I decided to try taking small sips of drinks to try to persuade the steak to ease on down the road. Anyone who’s ever had a clogged kitchen sink drain knows how well that works; you run the tap only to have it sink in: “This water has nowhere to go.”

Here are some things that didn’t resolve the situation:

  • Throwing up. Which, as it turns out, is what happens when aforementioned water has nowhere to go and just keeps rising, rising, rising in your esophagus.
  • Throwing up again. This time, while “please oh my God hurry” waiting in line for the single-serve bathroom, I had to throw up in my hand (luckily it was all water and saliva), then toss it back into my mouth and NotItjust hold it there until the room was free. (“I hope I don’t look like a puffer fish right now, with my cheeks bulging out. I’m sure I look perfectly natural … as perfectly natural as someone who is simultaneously freaked out and nauseated and has a mouthful of ick can look, anyway. Perfectly natural.”
  • Trying to throw up a third time. After I had finally realized what was causing the reaction, I decided to give it a go out of sheer spiteful will: “This is not happening. You are going to get rid of this.” This also is when the restaurant staff started eyeing my frequent trips to the lav suspiciously, and I decided to give up on this plan of attack, since it wasn’t working.
  • An invigorating and meant-to-be-distracting one-mile walk back to the hotel.
  • The Heimlich.* (As performed by a freaked-out Meathead, back at the hotel, not in the restaurant.)
  • Throwing up one last time. When I was convinced that the dam would give way if I just swallowed water hard enough. That decision came back to haunt me soon enough.

* By the way, I later read that as long as someone can breathe, you SHOULDN’T perform the Heimlich on him or her, because the maneuver could lodge the food somewhere even worse and block the windpipe.

By this point I was cold and on edge, which probably was leading to even more constriction no matter how much I tried to tell myself to relax. Trying to navigate my health insurance provider’s website to find the closest participating urgent care in Manhattan didn’t help, either. Eventually, exhausted and superstressed about the whole thing, I decided that since I could still breathe, I would just take a break in the hotel room’s amazing shower sauna, then lie down and try to get some sleep. Surely being THAT relaxed might let the food drop, right? And just in case, I popped a muscle relaxer (which I always pack on trips after experiencing one of these moments).

“I’ve got three possible results,” I said upon lying down: “I’ll wake up and it will be gone; I’ll wake up and it will still be there; or I’ll wake up dead (which will suck for Meathead, but I won’t be around for the reaction).”

I’m happy to report that I woke up and the steak was gone — as Meathead learned at 3 a.m., when I sat upright and began yelling at the top of my lungs.

I don’t remember the last time I had a bad dream.

Normally I sleep like the dead — I don’t move from where I’ve settled. After a night in a freshly made queen bed, the 3/4 of the bed I don’t occupy will emerge the next morning competely pristine. And I don’t hear anything while I sleep, either: Two years ago we were at the Montelucia celebrating a birthday, and while I took a nap — not even a full, hardcore, night sleep! — my friends got up, reassembled the hideaway couch, packed all their stuff, shooed away a maid who had knocked loudly and let herself into the room, and left to go home. I woke up hours later: “Hey, where did everybody go? Why is it so dark?”

So maybe I should blame that Flexeril for such a terrifyingly lucid dream about a Killer Bob-style intruder who had somehow gotten into my room and was approaching the bed where I was trapped, motionless. Imagine the scene below, only darker and creepier. And starring you, in bed.

What’s weird is that the room layout in the dream didn’t match that of my hotel room — or, as my overwhelmed rational right brain tried to comfort me even as I was bolting from bed, any bedroom I’ve ever had. “It’s OK! It’s not your bedroom! You would never position your bed that way!”

Or as I call it now, the "Killer Bob" position.

Feng shui calls this a “power position.” I call it the “Killer Bob” position.

It’s true: I read awhile back that you should never have the foot of your bed pointing out the door. (The Chinese call that placement the “coffin position” because they carried out the dead that way, feet-first.)  And a quick mental inventory of every bedroom I’ve had since I was in third grade revealed that the doorway has always been on the left side of the bed (when I’m in it). So my Killer Bob, creeping in from a door that I saw over my feet and to the right, was clearly a figment of my imagination. Good luck telling that to my feverish nightmare-terrified right brain, though.

Relatively speaking, I think even my reaction to a nightmare was pretty sedate: No flailing beforehand, no extended preludes of anguished whimpers/wails … just straight upright in one fell swoop and a bloodcurdling yell. Then a shake of the head with a quick “WTF just happened?” inventory of my environment, and back down to serene slumberland. It wasn’t until the next morning, when Meathead said, “What in the hell were you dreaming about last night?” that I learned I had awakened him, because he hadn’t turned around from his own sleeping position during the whole thing. Maybe he was just praying for it to resolve itself peacefully, without him having to tackle me or something.

So in less than six hours, I supplied more drama and weirdness than I think I’ve brought to our three years of friendship. I think that if our hotel room hadn’t been entirely paid for already, he might have queried at the front desk whether another room had come available.

WHAT SAM WORE: 12-20-12
IMG_3055 The shirt:
Long-sleeved button-up
by Rockin’ Sartorial,
from Marshall’s in Scottsdale.
The sweater:
Orchid-colored cotton/cashmere V-neck
from Uniqlo, New York.
The pants:
UJ dark-wash, regular-fit, straight-cut jeans
from Uniqlo, New York.

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