I used to love CornNuts. You know those incredibly hard, toasted pieces of corn that have some sort of cheesy flavoring on them that I can’t quite place, but is utter deliciousness? Well, I enjoy them. I remember in 2nd grade, Sarah Chamberlin used to bring CornNuts in a little baggie to school for her afternoon snack. I used to get so jealous that she got to have CornNuts and I didn’t. I am sure I could have just gone home and asked my mom to please pack CornNuts in my lunch too, but for some reason I didn’t. Maybe I just enjoyed being over-dramatic about the whole thing, and being able to say: “Its not FAAAIIIRRR!!! Sarah has corn nuts! I want CornNuts toooo!!!” Either way, from being envious of Sarah and her CornNuts, I grew up to be an avid Corn Nut eater. I would buy them in those little bags and chomp on them furiously, almost daring them to make each of my teeth fall out one by one with their baffling hard texture and crunch.Don hated Corn Nuts and used to make fun of me all the time for eating them. We always mocked one another for our various and sometimes odd food choices.”What is the attraction to these things?” he would say. “They practically knock your teeth out, and Its like eating plywood.” “Yes, but it’s cheese-flavored plywood!”, I would retort as I crunched close to his face to purposely annoy him. “Jesus, could they be any louder? I think that’s the loudest food on earth.” “You’re the loudest food on earth”. I realize this statement makes absolutely no sense to the normal observer, but it is something Don started doing a couple years ago, for no particular reason. Anything I would say, he would come back with that; adding “you’re” and then repeating the sentence back. The less sense it made, the funnier it was. A few examples:
Me: “How was your turkey sandwich?” Him: “You’re a turkey sandwich.”
Me: “We have to call Paul soon and fill out our tax forms.” Him: “You’re a tax form.”
Me: “Hi Boo. Can you come down and help me with the groceries? I have 4 heavy bags.” Him: “You’re 4 heavy bags.”
I think you get the idea. It was perhaps one of the dumbest and silliest things in the world, but for some reason, it made us laugh really hard every time. This bizarre ritual even spread to a few of our good friends; namely John, Jessica, and Kevin. Eventually; we were all doing it. It was always funny, but it was best when you completely didn’t expect it to happen. About a month ago; John, Jessica and I were at a diner on the Upper East Side of Manhattan; up by their apartment. John was talking about something; I cant remember what; and the last thing he said was “it’s just so completely pointless and lame.” There was a short beat; and then; in unison; Jessica and I both said: “You’re completely pointless and lame.” It was one of the first reminders of Don that made me laugh without even thinking about it. It was just stupidly funny.
But I digress. Let us get back to what’s important. Corn Nuts. Now please keep in mind my love of Corn Nuts that I have expressed to you here. Now with that in mind; I will say this: I have not eaten Corn Nuts since Don died. Why? Because I am terrified that I will choke on a Corn Nut. For real. I am scared to death that I will choke while alone in my apartment, and be found days or weeks later, when someone finally realizes that I am missing. They will open the door and see me lying on the floor surrounded by cat poop and askew Corn Nut remnants. Then Sammy and Autumn will be taken away by mean men in lab coats to a Kill-Shelter and when nobody adopts them, they will be immediately destroyed. That’s what they always say on those Pet Posts: “To be IMMEDIATELY DESTROYED!”
These are the things that constantly come into my head now, after losing Don. What if I choke on a Corn Nut and die? What if I slip and fall in the shower and die? What if this old, ancient apartment where nothing works has a gas leak, or carbon monoxide poisoning? What if I get mesothelioma? I don’t even know what the fuck that IS, but apparently enough people have it that there are endless lawyers on TV who specialize in it, so of course, I panic about it. What if I have a heart attack, like he did, and I’m ALONE here? He was only alone for maybe a minute or two before they found him collapsed on the floor at work, and to me, that is two minutes too many. If you live alone, it could be WEEKS before anyone knows you died!!! What if I am standing on the kitchen chair while changing the ceiling light bulb that I can just barely reach even while on a chair; and I fall and crack my head open? The cats would not only NOT call 911, but they would also eat the blood pouring out of my head like it was a fine tuna fish. Keep in mind these are the same cats that are famous for enjoying each others vomit as a meal choice. What if I die in my sleep? You always hear about people who just randomly stop breathing and die in their sleep. It could take days for anyone to figure out anything happened to me. I could slide off the road in the middle of winter after some out of the way comedy gig, and because nobody is waiting here for me to arrive home safely, who would know? What if I die on the toilet? I saw an episode of THE SOPRANOS once, where one of the mob guys died while taking a shit. That seriously ranks up there as one of the most humiliating ways to die EVER. I could choke on Corn Nuts, or steak, or rice. Sometimes a grain of rice can get stuck down there. People don’t think about choking on rice, but its a very dangerous food to eat while alone. There are many foods I will not eat while alone now. I will enjoy some Corn Nuts while in the company of others. Not while sitting here alone with two pointless cats that will only stare at me as I slowly lose breath and leave earth forever. There are multiple ways that I could die, out of the blue, and because I am here by myself now, it would go unnoticed. Worse than that, my death could have been prevented if only my husband were here with me while I was choking on that Corn Nut.
I’ve always been a bit of a hypochondriac. Not on any serious level or anything, but I always got a kick out of coming up with all the different ways that I might die and sharing them with Don. It was like a game. I loved to annoy him, and he laughed like hell at my ridiculousness. We would take walks along the Hudson River on our street, and there are these areas where you look over and its a large cliff-like thing; heading down several large hills and dirt and grass before getting to another street. I loved to look over the edge and say to Don: “What would happen if I just jumped off this cliff right now? Would I die?” “Ummm yes Boo, you would die.” “But what if I just became severely paralyzed and didn’t die? Would you take care of me and stay married to me?” “Not if you did it on PURPOSE, you whackjob!” “But if I was just a head in a wheelchair, you wouldn’t leave me?” “Okay, first of all, if you were just a HEAD, why the hell are you in a wheelchair? No Boo. I wouldn’t leave you if you were just a head. But if you don’t shut up soon, I might throw you over that cliff myself.” “Yes, Boo. I will shut up now.” “Thank God!”
I also always seemed to have random things wrong with me; and he was always perfectly healthy. If anything, he MIGHT get a cold once a year, and it would be over in 2 days flat. In all the years I knew Don, he NEVER once called out of work for being sick. He called out of work one time; after Isabelle died. He took 2 sick days so we could grieve for sweet Izzy cat. He was NEVER sick. Never had a flu or anything like that. He didn’t even get headaches. I remember him telling me when we first met that he had never had a headache before and didn’t know what they felt like. “What do you mean you’ve NEVER had a headache? How is that possible?” “I dunno. Ive just never had one.” I used to get migraines all the time, and he would help me through them. Or Id wake up one morning and have a randomly huge bubble on my back. I remember questioning him for days about that bubble. “What if its cancer? What if I have cancer? Who gets cancer in their BACK?” “Its not cancer, Boo. You’ll be fine.” I was always flipping out about something, and he was always telling me it would be okay.
Another time I got this weird rash-like thing all up and down my arms and legs. I went to a dermatologist, twice, and they gave me stuff to rub on it that never really helped, and we never did figure out what the hell it was. Eventually it mostly went away, but not completely. I also have strange allergies; to cilantro and jalapeno. Long ago, I was rushed to the ER for accidentally eating cilantro. (someone had put it inside mashed potatoes and I didn’t know.) My entire throat closed up and I couldn’t breathe. Then there was the time that Don and I were sitting here, last year, watching TV. I got up to get a drink, and all of a sudden my back went out. I couldn’t move at all. I threw out my back watching TV. Don had to get me to the hospital, get me home, and take care of me for five days straight as I sat in his favorite chair in our living room; unable to move. Lower lumbar strain. That is what they said it was. They gave me Percocet and that made things 100 times worse. I took half a pill, had hallucinations, threw up, and felt like I was dying for three days. I cried and hugged Don over and over as I said: “I’m dying. I really think I’m dying. Why is my heart beating so fast?” He simultaneously laughed at me and put washcloths on my forehead. All I know is that it was incredibly painful back pain followed by incredibly horrific Percocet side effects, and if Don wasn’t there to take care of me, it would have been hell on earth.
Last Easter, we were at my parents house in Massachusetts, eating dinner, when I started choking on potato salad. A piece of potato was too large and I didn’t chew it enough, apparently, and suddenly I couldn’t get a breath out. I banged the table a few times, ran into the living room, and kept trying to swallow it. It was stuck inside my throat. I finally got it down and was okay, but that minute or two was very scary. What I remember most though, was that Don followed me into the room, and stood there right next to me, waiting and ready to take action if I was choking for real. It made me feel so safe. I was almost choking, but I also knew Id be okay because he was there with me and he always made sure I was okay. A few months before he died, he was on his overnight EMT shift; and I was home alone. I was drinking a glass of water, and I almost choked on it. Who chokes on water??? (despite these past two stories, I am actually NOT someone who is constantly choking on things. In fact, these are the only two times I can remember it happening ever.) It wasn’t a full choke; just went down the wrong pipe; but I was coughing and doing the eye-watering thing for ten minutes afterwards. I totally freaked out at the thought of that happening while he was at work and not here next to me. I texted him once I calmed down, and we had this dialogue: (I found it on my phone, so what’s written below is the exact text exchange that we had) Sometimes I just stare at this exchange of texts on my phone; and I laugh and smile and cry.
Me: Boo, I just almost choked on water lol.
Him: Seriously? Only you would do that.
Me: I could have died.
Him: You didn’t die.
Me: But I could have.
Him: You’re fine Boo.
Me: But this is why I’m glad we are married. We both need someone there in case the other person chokes on something.
Him: LOL But I’m at work, so it doesn’t matter that you’re married, since I wasn’t home anyway when it happened.
Me: But I can text you and tell you and you’ll send help.
Him: …. OR …you could use that time to call 911 and save your own life!!!!
Me: But you ARE 911, so I could save my own life by calling YOU to have YOU save my life. Its ironic, don’t you think?
Him: Yeah. Like rain on your wedding day.
Me: A free ride, when you’ve already paid.
Him: Okay Boo. I gotta go. We have to pick up a patient. I cant sit here and quote Alannis Morisette songs with you all night.
Me: You’re an Alannis Morisette song.
Him: LOL Try to get through the rest of your night without accidentally killing yourself.
Me: I guess that means staying away from the CornNuts.
Him: You’re a CornNut.