I was planning to meet my friend at a Vietnamese restaurant, but it was closed, so I went to tell her at the entrance to the food court. On my way, I passed a Latin American restaurant and glanced at empanadas before meeting my friend. She said she’d go to the restroom and be back in a minute.
I returned to the Latin American restaurant and saw a crumpled up green thing by the counter. I picked it up, flattened it out: $20. I gave it to the cashier. She said, Oh! I think I know who dropped it. I said, Would you like me to find that person? She said yes, and gave a description. I ran down the hall, pausing every so often to ask people, have you seen this person? They said no. I returned to the cashier and said, I couldn’t find the owner. She handed the bill to me and said, It’s yours, you found it.
My friend emerged and asked where we should go and I suggested the Middle Eastern place we hadn’t been to in awhile. Or, I said, mentioning the Latin American place and my lucky find, we could go there. We ordered vegetarian moussaka.
My friend was talking. I was eating. I swallowed. Then a bay leaf was obstructing my throat. I coughed, coughed and coughed. I tried water, but knew that wasn’t right. A man hovered to my right. I tried tahini and coughed more. I coughed and coughed, tears running down my face, as I tried to get it out.
In between coughs, I told our restaurant’s cashier a conversation I’d had with my mother just last week. She had watched a cooking program about Nigerian cuisine and I had told her about the time I ate Nigerian food and choked on a fish bone. I said, It was a very scary experience, until I ate a piece of something doughy. There is something about the dough’s texture that loosened the bone from my throat. Do you have any bread? The cashier gave me a pita. I ate a piece: victory!
I was so shaken up by the experience I needed consolation. I went to the bakery next door and got a cute little carrot cupcake. Icing decorated with a carrot topped the cupcake. Thankfully, I didn’t choke on it.