One evening, last week (this has been the longest week of my life so last week feels like months ago) while I was sitting on the couch reading a novel, I accidentally swallowed my wedding ring. You may be wondering why, how or if you are going to be gullible enough to believe such a ridiculous thing. Well, allow me to explain. You see I suffer from a nervous glitch, an impatient hand that causes me to stick unwanted objects in my mouth. As a teenager I chewed on everything in sight and was worse than a puppy at times. As an adult, I have my oral fixation more under control but when I am writing or reading I need something in my mouth at all times (now that I have abolished the simple pleasure of smoking). That something in my mouth is usually my wedding ring. I gently pull the ring off my finger with my lips and suck on it in my mouth as if it was a piece of peppermint candy. I roll my tongue through its hole, which seems to help me process words in my mind. Normally I remain aware that there is a gold wedding ring floating around in my mouth- but on one particular night last week, the book I was reading was so engrossing that for a minute or two I forgot.
My wedding ring is made out of one ounce of white gold. It is a thick ring that is meant to be a small weight on my finger, reminding my wondering eye that I am a married man. How I managed to forget that this whale was floating around in my mouth still boggles my mind. I first became aware of what was happening when I felt the uncomfortable choking sensation of a large object passing down my throat. I stopped breathing for a moment as the ring descended through my esophagus like an inner tube going down a water slide. Sudden panic jolted me into action as I ran into the bathroom with a finger down my throat. I was worried that I would die as a result of swallowing my wedding ring and knew I was too good of a husband to go out this way. I thought about all the life I still needed to live as English subtitles from my obituary ran across the bottom of my mind. My whole body began to shake, waging a reactive rebellion against the terrified thoughts raging in my mind. After multiple tries at regurgitating my wedding ring I realized I was not going to die just yet- but I was in need of some serious help. I yelled for my wife to come into the bathroom and after she managed to cool me down- I told her what happened.
As my wife hovered over me like some kind of disapproving authority figure dressed in black (you see, I was on my knees hunched over the toilet bowl) I felt the sensation of an iron goldfish lapping around inside my intestines. I was not sick, just terribly uncomfortable. My wife growled at me and I could only hear parts of what she said. “You…….so absent-minded………..forget to turn off heater……..feed the cat……. and……..swallow your wedding ring! When……going to get it together………. wake up!” I knew she was letting off steam and had no energy to fight her vent. She had spent her last two thousand dollars to buy me the ring I had just ingested and I could feel her pain. As far as my wife (who has a tendency to be overly fatalistic) was concerned the ring was gone, a shipwreck buried deep beneath my intestinal juices. “Baby don’t worry, I’ll either shit it out or have it surgically removed,” I promised her as she dropped to her knees. The bathroom floor is a place where all people admit their defeat and with tears in our eyes my wife and I admitted ours. “When are you going to get it together?” she kept repeating as I sat on the tiled floor with my hands flat on my stomach and no idea of what was to come.
(My grandmother always told me that if I was going to be a reader of fiction that I should prepare myself for not being in the world. What she meant was that a symptom of reading fiction is being absent-minded in day-to-day life. My grandmother felt that fiction readers (and poetry readers) lived in a world of thought and fantasy rather than action. I disagreed with her until I had become a man who could not put a book down. I started doing clumsy, absent minded things like rear ending cars, skipping breakfast and lunch and forgetting to pull up my pant zipper because I was too busy thinking about the plot of a book I was reading. Things like that. But now I have swallowed my wedding ring. This act of mine makes me feel like my grandmothers words were less of a theory and more like a prophetic warning.)
After a few more repetitions of “when are you going to get it together?” my wife was able to compose herself enough so she could call a poison control center. I was relieved because I did not know how much longer I could handle all the guilt and despair that was flooding the bathroom. I needed help not a marital drowning. The center told my wife that if I did not defecate the ring out by tomorrow morning that I should go to the emergency room. They recommended that I eat prunes, dried mangos, salt and lots of fiber to move the ring through my bowels. When my wife asked the poison control center if her husband was in any great risk from ingesting his wedding ring the person on the other line tried to humor her by saying “no more of a risk than being married is.” She thanked the controller for his unwanted humor and came back into the bathroom with a tablespoon of salt, a can of prunes and a loaf of multi grain bread. I could see that her anger had morphed into a kind of pity for me, her husband, stuck on the bathroom floor with a wedding ring lost someplace in my gut.
After helping me swallow down as much fiber and salt as I possibly could we waited patiently on the bathroom floor for my bowels to kick out the ring that lingered inside. But the ring must have clogged the main drain because no matter how much carbonation and gas I felt percolating in my stomach not even a slight gaseous wind blew through my anal spout. My wife gently rubbed my head and feet in a successful attempt at loving communion and said, “you are such a silly guy for swallowing your wedding ring.” I chuckled off her remark since this was one time I was not trying to be funny. We did not really have much to say to each other except a few reassuring “I love you’s” and the occasional inane plea for forgiveness and restitution. Instead we waited and waited. We loitered on that cold bathroom floor like two lovers waiting for the fiber to induce the impossible birth of their firstborn.
Two days later I returned home from the inhospitable hospital. Since my own fiber fueled digestive system was incapable of expelling the wedding ring from my gut I had to helplessly rely on modern medical techniques to do so. I resisted at first, saying that I wanted to wait one more day- anything to avoid an invasive procedure. But several medical Doctors and a self-declared underpaid nurse told me that I could not afford to wait another day. I was subjected to the whims of a perverted metallic probe (with a camera) that was inserted in my anus and then snaked around my intestines until the wedding ring was spotted, stuck in a creased pocket of my colon. I was awake through the entire procedure and could feel it when the probe latched on to the ring and then very very slowly dragged its prey through the intestinal tracks that I felt no longer belonged to me. I was terrified that at any moment my stomach would burst open and out would spray this infected looking alien creature- but I was assured by very calm medical professionals that nothing like this had ever happened before. My wife held on tightly to my limp hand and the Doctor told me that everything would be fine once the ring passed through my anal spout. The pain was slight since I was heavily sedated, which meant that I really did not get to enjoy the excitement that everyone else shared once the ring finally popped out onto the floor.
I was kept in the inhospitable hospital for a night following the procedure so that medical professionals who rarely visited my room could keep my colon under observation. The concern was that my colon could go into frenetic spasms, which would cause me a great deal of pain and need immediate treatment. The chances that this would happen were slight but they still insisted upon playing it safe no matter how much I protested. My Doctor, who had a long beard, which often caused me to confuse him with God, came into my room and placed the wedding ring back onto its appropriate finger. When my wife asked if the ring had been cleaned the Doctor looked at her with an incredulous smile and said “just like new.”
The Doctor told my wife and I that I needed to spend the next week in bed. Even though I pretended to be bothered by the Doctors command- deep down I was as happy as a dog rolling in green grass. “A few days in bed with nothing but a book and lots of sleep! My wife will care for me and I will be like a king lounging in his over-sized pillowy chair!” some voice deep down in my head joyfully shouted but I did everything I could to mask my excitement with a frown and a continual sigh. “He wants you to drink plenty of fluids and remain lying on your back for at least twenty hours a day,” my wife repeated to me after the Doctor spoke and all I could think was fuck yeah.
The wedding ring had been stuck in a very sensitive and narrow pocket of my colon and the Doctor was concerned that there could of been some bruising done. As a result of the trauma I was at risk of developing a hematoma or some internal bleeding so I needed to take it easy and only eat fruit and drink water for the following seven days. When I was leaving the hospital my Doctor asked me if I had learned anything from this experience. “I have learned to keep my wedding ring out of my mouth,” I plaintively said. He looked at me as if he was waiting for a more insightful reply. “Did you learn anything else?” he asked after taking a deep breath that seemed to drag me closer to him. My eyes drifted up into my head for a moment (this is what happens when I am thinking) and I then replied, “I now know what marriage can put a man through.” This answer came from some place deep in my gut, rather than from my mind. Even though the Doctor did not seem satisfied with my answer he said, “If you love your wife you will love your life.” He smiled and then said, “and keep that sacred ring out of your mouth.” The Doctor then disappeared and to be honest- I do not expect to ever see him again. As my wife pushed me in the loner wheelchair out from the inhospitable hospital, I kept telling her how much I loved her.
Now that almost a week has passed I am ready to get out of this selfish bed. I am still tired and slightly sore but the idea of spending my days lying on my back as my wife feeds me green grapes is no longer as appetizing as it once seemed. I am ready to be erect again, a man of the world who refuses to put his wedding ring in his mouth. My wife made me a personal bookmarker and a sign to put above my writing desk that says in large capitalized black print “NO RING OR ANYTHING IN BIG MOUTH EXCEPT FOOD, WATER AND MY TONGUE!” At first I was slightly offended by her assumption that I could not remember something so serious on my own volition- but already in the past week there has been several close calls that made my wife take my ring away. She tells me that I read too much, have a tendency to be absent minded and does not yet trust me enough to give me back my ring. I protest and want to shout out that “I am a grown man and it is my wedding ring!” but right when I feel the yell swelling up in the beck of my throat I remember what the Doctor said, “love your wife, love your life.” So I stop myself from catching fire and put out my flames by pulling my wife close to me, opening my mouth and telling her to give me her tongue instead.