There have been three occasions in my life (so far) where I could’ve plausibly and tragically shuffled off this mortal coil. I’ve stared death in the face and screamed, “Not today! Not ever! Muahaahaaahaa!” I almost died, y’all. Three times. But I didn’t.
Unknowingly ingested a greater than a trivial amount of insecticide.
I grew up in Northern Virginia where the humidity in the summer gathers around you, sits on your lap, and paws at your hair. The heat slaps you in the face. Every year when the heat and humidity would come to sit a spell, the ants would come marching into my parents’ air conditioned house, into the toaster, and all over the kitchen counters. My mom would spray everything down with Raid ant killer. It kills ants dead. Also people. I repeat: my mom would spray Raid in our kitchen. On the counters. Where food is prepared. She would always clean all insecticide areas after the ants traipse through Poison Town and put down roots in Deathville. My mom is a meticulous housekeeper, and I’m not sure why the ants foolishly came in like they’d happened upon the aftermath of a county fair.
There was one time, though, when my mom was either interrupted in cleaning up the poison or got sidetracked somehow. She’s a mom, so there’s no telling what happened. She left one of the insecticide rags on the counter. It was the mid-90s and I was in high school and dating (or “going out with”) a guy who I thought was THE ONE. We were hanging out at my parents’ house like good little teenagers, probably watching a movie on VHS in the family room. I got hungry as teenagers do and asked my boyfriend to make me some soup. I don’t know why I wanted soup in the dead of summer, but teenagers aren’t known for making good decisions, and why I wanted soup isn’t important. How it was prepared is. Since my mom had just sprayed poison in the kitchen and cleaned it up, I asked my boyfriend to wash the pot before heating up my soup on the stove because apparently I’m too good for microwaved soup. He complied because have you met a teenage boy who’s dating a girl he really likes? He washed the pot and dried it with the rag laying on the counter–the death rag. Death was trying to take me down in one of the sneakiest ways possible. I ate the soup and started to feel a little funny. My mom, who had been elsewhere in the house, popped into the kitchen and called into the family room, “the towel on the counter has Raid on it, so no one use it for anything!” The color drained from my boyfriend’s face as he realized he had just poisoned me. Because I was a teenager, I remember being mad at my mom and not my boyfriend, who should have used common sense and known not to use a towel laying on the counter when he KNEW my mom had been cleaning up death poison.
Anyway, I later married this person. This person isn’t Henning. Perhaps I should have realized the relationship was doomed after the poisoning incident, but this person is the reason I met Henning. And if I hadn’t met Henning, who knows what my life would be like. And who knows what you’d be doing right now, surely not reading this. So thank the baby Jesus I was nearly poisoned to death so all our lives are exactly as they should be right now.
Narrowly escaped being hit by a bus.
About 14 years ago Henning and I had just met each other and were just friends, having been introduced to each other by the person who poisoned me. We were living in Blacksburg, VA, home of Virginia Tech, and I had just graduated from undergrad and Henning was in grad school. Because I was a goody two-shoes in college, I didn’t party, except for one night after my 21st birthday when I got drunk on amaretto sours in my dorm suite with my underaged suite mates. I did some acrobatics in the hallway, made an ass out of myself, and woke up in my dorm bed with red lipstick smashed into my hair. What I’m saying is, I had the potential to party, but I was a book worm with a goal to graduate with honors, so that was my one and only wild college night, in a college town where there was little to do other than party. AFTER I graduated, though, It. Was. On! I had a real job with real money, and it seemed like the perfect time to get my party on because going to work hungover is SUPER FUN!
Henning and I lived close to each other and would often meet up to walk to the bars where we would proceed to get shit-faced and argue with one another about stupid shit. Good times. On one occasion we were walking down a street where some unruly hedges were spilling onto the sidewalk. The hooligan shrubs made Henning step aside to walk around their shenanigans and I stepped aside to avoid bumping into Henning because cooties. I took one step off the curb when Henning grabbed my shoulders and held me in place as a bus rushed past us. My hair blew over my face and I could feel the rumble of the bus in my lungs. He said, “Jesus Christ, Michelle! You almost got run over by that bus!” I laughed and said, “Whoa, that was close. Thanks for saving me.” And we went on our merry way not realizing that the universe was trying to push us together. If our life was a Rom-Com, that would have been the moment we fell in love, but this is real life. It would be 6 more years before we fell in lurve, got married, and had babies. But Henning saved my life. He’s my goddamn hero.
Nearly plummeted to my death from a second story window.
Long story short Henning and I bought a foreclosed 30-year-old colonial-style, two-story house right after getting married. The house “needed work,” but a better description would have been “still standing.” The roof had a hole in it and water leaked into the master bedroom causing the disgusting carpet to grow mushrooms. Actual, real mushrooms. The master bath toilet leaked for approximately as long as the house had been standing and the floor was rotten. In the dining room, it looked like someone spilled gravy at some holiday dinner and just left it there, like, “I’ll clean this up next Christmas.” There was mold everywhere. It was disgusting.
We walked into the house on the day we got the keys, armed with respirators and gloves and ripped out all the carpet; the gravy and mushrooms were banished. And for every day after that for 6 months straight, we worked on the house. I experienced a moment of Hulk-like strength when I dismantled the master bath and heaved a 42-inch poured marble vanity top out of the bathroom and onto the bedroom floor. I removed kitchen cabinets; tore down drywall; cut new drywall (and my fingers); sweated copper pipes; swung a hammer; grouted tiles; inhaled noxious fumes from our newly stain, beautiful hardwood floors; and painted, sanded, and stained away the terribleness. One day I took a deep breath, muttered an apology, and swung a sledge hammer to remove a perfectly good cast iron tub that was sitting on a dangerously rotten floor. But all those things didn’t take me down. I survived through the blood, sweat, and tears we poured into that house. But the house was bad, and it tried to kill me.
One day shortly after we had removed all the carpeting and began working on replacing the roof, I was standing in the second-story master bedroom, discussing with Henning and my father-in-law our next steps for making the house not leak like a sieve and, more importantly, habitable. The windows were wide open, still airing out the pungent stink of rotten carpet. I walked from the middle of the room toward the open window. There was a trash bag covering the air vent directly under the window to keep debris and water out of the duct work. I had forgotten about the vent and my foot slipped into it, and I started to fall forward through the open window, which was two stories above a concrete patio. I nearly plummeted to my death, but I caught myself on the rotten window frame, and said, “You can’t kill me house! We will make you nice again! You will be a nice house, dammit!” And that’s exactly what we did. When we sold the house to move from Illinois to Washington, it was one of the prettiest and nicest houses on the street.
So, there you have it. I’m still here. And I don’t plan on letting death get me any time soon because I’ve got mad evasion skills.