With my back against the wall and the Remington 5 on a red stool before me, I sat poised for an order. A young dad with three curious boys, roughly 8 to 11, were nose to nose with me firing questions about this crazy contraption.
"Look that's a typewriter kids," the father exclaimed with genuine enthusiasm. "Those were the first computers!"
Behind him a sweet couple stood waiting to proffer their poem title. We'd chatted earlier and they'd gone into Kiko to see guest check poetry art as an example of past poems I'd typed-to-order, then swagged into art for the shop. They were looking at me with eager anticipation while all the boys had me lassoed in a tight circle.
Two women approached from my left calling my name. Then another old friend on the right poked her head through the crowd. Turning toward Michelle's voice is when it struck: The Bug.
Excuse the language, but I shit you not, that monster of a bug shot into my mouth and down my windpipe with the speed of a dragonfly's wing. In fact, it may have been a dragonfly. Okay. Not a dragonfly, but something too big to be lodged in a human throat.
I froze and no one noticed immediately. I was paralyzed and breathless from the scorching pain.
Over coffee the next morning, through a smoker's rasp, I'd tell my husband it was not unlike the time I sucked a hot ember through a dry bong behind a bowling alley in the 70s. It's been five days and I still feel, or imagine I feel, the rough bug landing pad.
When my audience realized I was in a state there came a barrage of, "Are you okays?" While I could breath, I couldn't talk. I was pointing to my neck and shrugging. Then I lept up and pushed through the crowd to get to the bathroom for water and a three minute coughing spell.
Word of advice if someone's choking: Don't ask questions. Find water quickly and hand it to them.
The epiphany arrived two days later. It's amazing how a shock will dislodge memory. Like the night in high school behind the bowling alley that I've not thought of in decades. I then recalled sage advice received in the 90s from a Self magazine editor; it was my first national publication, a story on the Chopra Center kitchen. Amy asked me to email what I had for the story and when I did her reply was brief: "Stop writing. Time to organize your material."
I have hundreds of poems from almost four years of typing them in public. I've self-published one small Kindle collection of 64 poems on Amazon and I play with imagery for wall art and cards I sell at Kiko Simple Goods and Bespoke in Truckee, Calif. Like that bug, I want to give the poem wings to fly further, (but hopefully without endangering anyone.)
Thank you bug that flew down my throat. Five days later and I'm still coughing up your imaginary wings and legs.