Last week, I nearly choked to death. Not metaphorically – I literally nearly choked to death. But this post is not about my actual experience, as unfortunate as it was; rather, as the friend sitting next to me quickly understood what was going on, told me to get up from my seat and promptly applied the Heimlich maneuver, it’s about what happened afterwards. Or what didn’t happen.
The last time my sister and I spent six weeks under the same roof was when I still lived at home and shared a bedroom with her teenage self. My sister is seven years younger than me and, since I left home, and the country, at age 23, we spent a couple of vacations together and she made multiple visits to wherever I happened to be living (and, recently, I visited her in Rome) but those stretches of time amounted to no longer than a week or two.
Looking at Portia now, peacefully napping on her bed, the mischief that is perpetually swirling in her brain is not apparent. Yet, that scoundrel, aided and abetted by her brother, Ottie, have caused their share of havoc. Neither of them has ever chewed shoes or furniture, and long ago I learnt the trick of scattering a couple of cardboard boxes with a small treat inside before leaving the house, to be sure I will return to everything as I (mostly) left it.
This story is not mine to tell. I stole it – a conversation with one of those strangers who, under certain circumstances, become intimate for a few hours, to then vanish forevermore. I should have asked for her permission to tell it but now it’s too late. I decided to write it because it poses an interesting conundrum – walking away from her, I asked myself “Would I do it? Would I go forward under the same circumstances?”