—  Ken and Vesta  —

Wedding and Portrait Photography

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Doris is Alive, Kim is Not

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I saved a life yesterday and it made me feel good about myself for the first time, since Kim died. I knew she was in a bad place, but I didn’t do anything, because she didn’t ask for help. She shoulda called. She knew we’d go. We didn’t judge her, try to change her and we didn’t blame her for what she did or didn’t do.

There is nothing we wouldn’t have done for her. She was Devon’s mother. And when Vesta and I were in a bad place, she was there for us. But we weren’t there for her.

I’d told her time and again if she was ever in trouble, to call and we’d come and in the past she did and we did. But not this time. She was hurting and in need and she didn’t call and till the day I die, I won’t know why.

Every other week or so Vesta and I have lunch with Kim’s cousin Maria. Yesterday we did it at this Mexican restaurant called Ana’s. I had tacos, rice, beans and a margarita. After lunch, thanks to the drink, I had to get up and pee. When I got back Vesta and Maria were tearing up and I knew they had been talking about Kim. It was all I could do to keep from crying.

“Do you need help?” Vesta said, loud as she got up from the table. She’d heard something I hadn’t.

“What?” I got up, followed her, saw a woman choking around the corner. The waiter darted over, went to help, but Vesta could see he hadn’t a clue.

“Not you!” she said. “Him.” She pointed to me. “Help her, Ken!”

The waiter stepped back as I rushed to the woman. I got behind her, wrapped my arms around her, clasped my hands tight under her breasts and squeezed.

“Can’t breathe.” She gagged.

“Again.” I squeezed her again.

“Moved some,” she said. I didn’t know you could talk as you were choking, but it seems you can.

“One more time.” I squeezed her hard, not hard as I could though. I was afraid I’d break her ribs.

“Harder.” Vesta said. “You have to do it harder!”

“Again,” I said, “on three.” I counted and gave her a great squeeze and I squeezed and squeezed and squeezed again, to no avail.

“Nine-one-one. Nine-one-one,” the woman said. But I knew there were no paramedics in her future. She had seconds. Seconds only.

“You can do it, Ken!” Vesta said.

And, all of a sudden, I knew I was going to have to hurt her. “On three,” I said. “Try to push it out on three.” I relaxed my grip. Counted, “One, two—” I slammed my clasped hands into her chest, squeezed with all I had. “Three—” I smashed the palm of my hand into her back, hit her as hard as I could.

“You did it!” Vesta shouted as the woman sucked in a great breath. I didn’t see it come out, but Vesta told me later it came out like a projectile, a piece of tortilla not chewed. I saw it though. It was pretty big. And I’d been wrong about hurting her. She was fine. She might be bruised when she got home, but she was okay and we cancelled the 911 call.

The woman’s name was Doris and she thanked me and thanked me and thanked me. We hugged and Vesta took our picture together. Then we went back to our table and I felt good. It was a wonderful feeling. I don’t know if I did the Heimlich maneuver the way you’re supposed to. I’d only seen it done on TV. But it worked and I felt great.

I was still feeling good about myself when we got home, but then that old depression came back. I lay down, closed my eyes, turned off and didn’t turn back on till it got dark. But something happened while I was asleep. It was as if Kim’s ghost had come to call and told me to let it go.

Kim’s dead. Doris is alive. And I’m okay with that now.


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