How A French Fry Gave Me PTSD

Written by: Eric Harvey

Art by: Grace Monahan

January 12, 2020, 2:40 PM–  “The Calm Before The Storm”

I was sitting a thousand feet up in the air in a tight and compact tunnel surrounded by strangers all traveling to the same place as me, Burlington Vermont. I closed my eyes; this would be the first time I got to rest in over 24 hours. All was going well until I was reminded of that day. Why did I have to think of that now? Why did I have to think of something so terrifying? We were sky high in an airplane for crying out loud, if something like that were to happen again, it would be over. Before anyone would notice, I’d be out unconscious and it wouldn’t be like the movies where they yell out “IS ANYONE ON BOARD A DOCTOR?” and then some dude still in his doctor dude outfit, scrubs and stethoscope included, stands up and turns to the camera heroically and says, “Why yes, it’s me.” No, that wasn’t going to happen. There would be no Jack Shepherd on board to save me, not like that day.

 

August 11, 2019, 9:00 PM–  “That Day”

I was sitting downstairs in the living room on the couch with my legs up on the footrest as I watched something on the television. Little did I know what was about to occur as I clenched my teeth down onto a french fry. I swallowed, but the french fry must have been caught somewhere in the back of my throat. I tried to cough, unaware of what was happening. I can’t say I know exactly how it happened. Maybe I didn’t chew enough, maybe it went down the wrong pipe, maybe the ketchup was “too spicy”,  or maybe I was just unlucky. All I know is it did happen: I was choking on a french fry.

Oh. Oh shit. Oh fuck, I said to myself (not outloud of course; I was choking afterall), OH FUCK! This is happening. A french fry is going to kill me.

I was alone in the room and sure as hell didn’t know how to save myself. Sure I knew how to do the heimlich, ON OTHER PEOPLE!  There was only one thing I could do; go upstairs, and hope one of my family members could rescue me. There was no time to pause the TV.  I promptly got out of my seat placing my french fries container gently down onto the couch. If I was going to survive I would be coming back to finish them.

I ran out of the room. If I was going to die, it at least wouldn’t be in a room called the living room. There were at least four other people upstairs who could potentially save me. My father, mother, grandmother, or my brother. The only obstacle in my way; Twelve steps up the staircase. You should have seen me as I made my way up, two steps at a time. I reached the top of the staircase as if my life depended on it (…it did).  

The closest door to me was my brothers. I knew what might come from asking for his help. It would come at a price.

“Hey,” I would say. “You mind passing that glass of water to me?”

“No,” he would reply back. “I saved your life. Why don’t you get ME a glass of water?”

Every argument would end in: “Yeah!? Well I saved your life! Go eat a french fry!”

I knew what it would be like, but I didn’t exactly have time to be picky so I barged right in.

Of course, not only was he facing his computer, but he had headphones on.  I ran to him and grabbed his shoulders. He turned around taking his headphones off, staring at me as I pointed at my neck.

You’ve probably seen an episode of a TV show where the main character and the villain are forced to work together because there’s some external force that is trouble for both of them. Before the two polar opposites leave and swear to kill each other the next time they see each other, the villain will say something like, “You know… We could have been friends in another world.” 

In my case, I wanted to live, and my brother didn’t want a dead body in his room. In an instant he realized what was happening to me, and promptly got up from his seat. He got behind me and formed his hand into a fist and forced it into my stomach.

“Papa!” My brother screamed, “Eric’s choking!”

He continued to thrust his fist into my chest, while at the same time somehow pushing me towards the door and back out into the hallway. My parents and my grandmother were already making their way towards me as I looked on helplessly. My brother resumed the Heimlich as he brought his fist to my chest and then it came out. Deposited onto the floor were the pathetic remnants of a french fry.

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January 12, 2020, 2:43 PM– “A Foreboding Reminder”

I was lucky then. My brother (like it or not) saved me. But since then, there is frequently that lingering thought in the back of my head whenever I eat food that I would suddenly choke to death. Calling it PTSD is surely an exaggeration; I’m certainly not diagnosed with PTSD. I’m no war veteran (although that isn’t to say all people who suffer from PTSD are victims of war). I’m just some guy who managed to choke on a french fry from McDonalds. From that night and onwards I would be lying down in bed and suddenly jump up in fear every time I felt something in the back of my throat, or in today’s case, I’ll feel absolutely nothing, but still jump up. All because of a pathetic french fry. Does that make me pathetic? Maybe, but when I returned to the scene of where I almost died that night, I kept my promise. I looked Death right in the face and I ate another french fry.