Sirenita Lake

Sirenita Lake
San Francisco, California,
November 04
I am married in a committed, open relationship that is the anchor of my life. I'm a former high school English teacher, former software technical writer, and graduate of the late, great public interest law school, New College of California School of Law. I'm now on permanent disability from conditions that have finally eased up enough for me to begin exploring the world, at least that part which I can access emotionally, with the recklessness of a teenager. An important part of my life remains my work as a counselor for tenants with legal problems. The rest of the time, I indulge in outrageous adventures in sex and love, which I occasionally write about.


Sirenita Lake's Links

Editor’s Pick
MARCH 9, 2009 8:40PM

Death Drop

Rate: 76 Flag

I wanted to start this "the rhino lowered his head and charged, barely missing my leg as I pulled myself up into the baobab tree..." Or maybe "the gun was shaking in the addict’s hand and I read in his crazy, glassy eyes that no matter what I did, he was going to pull the trigger..." Sadly, my near-death experience involves a cough drop. Not even a poison cough drop, or a high-velocity cough drop launched from a fiendish machine. It was one of the flat, mediciny kind of cough drops. It happened after the man who would be my husband went away.

I met my husband at high school. We were supposed to be the adults, which was why we did things like fuck on the teacher’s desk and make out in his car, a decrepit Chevy far more wretched than anything a student would ever drive. I had this skirt which was long and voluminous, and had a front snap closure all the way down. It’s hard to imagine a skirt like that if you’ve never seen one, but once you can imagine it, you can see how that would be convenient for away from home fucking. It was an 80s version of the zipless fuck--the quick-release skirt. During school hours, we would send the kids back and forth between our classrooms with little gifts. He would tell a student, "Take this pen to Ms. Lake." He sent a little note that read, "This is my favorite pen because it writes so smooth and black." He made it sound like an innuendo. And I would send him a wrapped chocolate chip cookie with a gold star on it.

We fucked a lot that summer, at my place, at his place, at the nice Victorian where I house sat for a dog, two cats and three birds. We had no definition in our relationship. He resisted it, and while I knew we were in love, it didn’t matter yet whether he knew it. He said he wasn’t, that in fact he was in love with someone else, but he spent four nights a week with me, the sex was hot, and we were great friends. It looked like love, even without the label. I’ve always been one to accept the good things that come to me, without looking them in the mouth.

Fall semester, I got hired for a tenure track position and he got stuck with subbing. No one likes subbing, even me, and I was unbelievably good at it. Subbing is all about maintaining discipline, which you do by outwitting the kids, because you’ll never out-muscle them. I had some breakthrough moments when I was a sub, due to my ability to connect with young thugs, but my boyfriend found this gig where you never teach, you just ride herd, extremely boring. So when he saw an ad for a job teaching English in Japan, he applied for it. He gave up his apartment and moved in with me while waiting for his Japanese work visa. I got used to having someone in the house. It felt like nesting.

Then he left, and the apartment was really, really empty. When the neighbor came up the stairs, I would perk up like a dog, then remember that he was thousands of miles away. I missed him terribly, but I was luxuriously alone in my chic little apartment. It was the loveliest place I’ve ever lived. It was in the back of the building, on the garden side. I loved the expansiveness of the view into the neighbors’ gardens with their trees as big as anything in Golden Gate park, and the bougainvillea-covered ruin of a windmill two houses down that remained from when the block was a farm. You can still find these relics in San Francisco. I loved the way the windows were placed for cross-currents so it never felt hot, the way the rooms fit me perfectly, the open-plan styling that meant the place felt so much bigger than its three rooms. There were no halls, no doors, just an expanding loft-like space that terminated in the sun-drenched bedroom.

"You live in a glass house!" my mother said, her yet undiagnosed dementia turning her speech into a more eccentric version of her old, carefully colloquial, unaccented English. "You shouldn’t live alone. You could die here and nobody would know it!" I knew my mother well enough to follow her line of thought. Someone would see into my room and decide to kill me. The body would be discovered eventually because of the smell. I hardened my mind against the image. It was very important to me to be on my own.

A few days after her visit, I came down with a vicious cold, a hazard of being a school teacher. Schools concentrate germs. I had more colds that year than I had had in the previous ten. The night of the killer cough drop attack, I went to bed around 11:00, and woke up at 2:00 a.m. with a fever and a violent cough. I drank some water, and popped a cough drop in my mouth to relieve the scratchiness. Fever made me drowsy. I decided to sit up for a little while and suck the cough drop. I slipped down between the covers. I’ll just lie here with my eyes open, I thought, until I’m done with the cough drop. I’ll just stay awake with my eyes closed.

I woke up suddenly. It took me a second to grasp the situation. I had started to cough. I had gotten as far as the sharp intake of breath that precedes coughing. The carelessly minded cough drop got sucked into my trachea, where it had lodged. I could not cough. I could not make a sound. I could not breath. I was choking. I realized I was in serious trouble. My mother’s voice, reliable, echoed in my brain, "You could die here and nobody would know it." 

Choking is not like you think it will be. There is no "gack! gack!" and clutching at your throat. You don’t feel the obstruction. Mostly, nothing happens at all. It’s absolutely silent. You just can’t take a breath. It’s slow. You think, oh, I fucked up and now I’m gonna die. No, from a stupid cough drop? Yes, totally. I sat up and considered what to do, as calmly as one can in that kind of situation. I didn’t run around. Not running around might save me 15 seconds of oxygen.

I reviewed the options. It was 2:00 a.m. I was very alone. I could bang on the neighbors’ door, but the neighbors were porn actors who appeared to be under-resourced in the brain department. I imagined myself doing the universal "I’m choking" gesture and them assuming I was dying to perform a blowjob.

I thought about calling 911. I couldn’t speak, of course, because I couldn’t breathe. I thought about tapping out SOS, but decided that no one knew Morse Code anymore and the operator was likely to keep repeating "What is the nature of your emergency" as my tapping grew weaker. I considered dialing 911 and leaving the phone off the hook, which the operator would interpret as a heart attack and dispatch an ambulance. Then I remembered that in our city, they dispatch police, not an ambulance, when they don’t know what the problem is. I had about a minute and a half to unconsciousness, and four minutes until death. There wasn’t time.

This is the place in these stories of near death experiences where you talk about your life passing in front of your eyes or else you say that, no, your life does not pass in front of your eyes at all, you just think about how you don’t want to die. My brain was on the job. I did not think about my wonderful job, my mother who needed me, the man I loved. I did not think about my 25th birthday party, or the first family vacation when I was ten, or the train ride when I was four. I did not waste time thinking about how sad it was that I was dying.

Instead, every class, lecture, and article I had ever encountered on first aid in general, and choking in particular, starting with the fifth grade, passed in front of my eyes. Thank you, Jesus, for a brain that shows some sense in a crisis.

I remembered that you had to "clear the airway." However, you must be careful not to push the object further in. I imagined sticking my finger down my throat and discarded that idea. That was precisely what you shouldn’t do. I remembered emergency tracheotomies. That was an option. I’m actually capable of imagining such a thing as a self-tracheotomy, but I didn’t have a straw and my paring knife was really an old serrated steak knife. You need a straw and something more closely related to a scalpel than a steak knife.

I remembered the Heimlich maneuver. Could the porn stars next door perform the Heimlich? I would have to show them how and I would run out of oxygen and the last thing I would see before I died would be the blank looks on their attractive faces. Hadn’t I read that you could do a Heimlich on yourself? How? Something about the diaphragm. Pressure inward and upward. Should I throw myself on the Newell post? Run into the kitchen table?

Fuck it. The last thing I did, before I died, was to make a fist with my left hand, rotate it downward, cup it in my right hand, and ram it into my stomach as hard as I could.

Fortunately, my mouth had been open in surprise the whole time, because I forgot that step. The cough drop flew out in a graceful arc and landed three feet away. I stared at it, taking it in. I was pleased, in that way you’re pleased when you bowl a strike or make a successful Hollandaise sauce or park in a really tight spot. Like nailing a moderately difficult physical challenge. I had about half a second to enjoy the sensation of success and then I coughed and wheezed so much that the next five minutes were hardly any better, breathing-wise, than choking had been.

Then I poured myself a cognac, a reliable, non-lethal cough remedy. A while later, after taking a suspicious look around for anything that might strangle me in my sleep, I lay down and drifted off. The next day I felt different. I had saved my own life. You might not want to write a movie script about it, but I would have been just as dead as if it had been a rhino, perhaps a bit more embarrassed, but just as dead. I felt a secret elation as I went about my cool job teaching public high school kids, who, after all, were not nearly as dangerous as a cough drop.

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this is as fine a brush with death as i've read, and i've read many very good ones. but i hope you don't mind my saying that even though i was horrified from the moment you woke up with the cough drop in your wind-pipe, i couldn't stop laughing either. not at your predicament you understand, but at bits like this:

"I imagined myself doing the universal "I’m choking" gesture and them assuming I was dying to perform a blowjob."

you're not only a gifted writer but you're hilarious too! i'm just glad it worked out OK in the end, and i hope you really enjoyed that cognac.
Thank you to much, nanatehay. I'm late answering this open call because I wasn't sure if anyone would care that I was attacked by a cough drop. But what the hell, you go with the brush with death you got.
"I wanted to start this "the rhino lowered his head and charged, barely missing my leg as I pulled myself up into the baobab tree..." Or maybe "the gun was shaking in the addict’s hand and I read in his crazy, glassy eyes that no matter what I did, he was going to pull the trigger..." Sadly, my near-death experience involves a cough drop."

Near-death is near-death Ms. Serenita. Someone choking on a cough drop can be as dramatic as a rhino charge, especially when the story's told with as much writing skill and humor as you've shown here. Though I hesitate to agree with Mr. Nanatehay on anything, this is as finely crafted a "brush with death" as I'VE read too. I really hope more people get by to see this, because you're a great writer.

One of the things that irks me about Open Salon is that as fine a post as great as this one can get overlooked while everybody's rushing to read the latest Dr. Amy story or look at videos of dogs fucking cats. OS is supposed to be a venue for writers, but more often than not the very best writers we have go un-noticed.
Speaking of writers, poor ones in this case, that was supposed to read "as fine a post as this one." It's another thing which irks me, the inability to edit comments after we've mis-typed something, and don't even get me started about the editorial staff....:)
Sirenita, you are very very talented! This was scary b/c it was an every day possibility, we all have taken cough drops! I was thinking you were going to drink a bunch of water to melt that cough drop but i guess that would have taken more time than you had. I love how your posts are not just about one thing but about several. It's funny b/c I dont doubt you could do your own trach, i have sometimes thought I could do my own trach, which is kinda of a weird thought to have if you think about it. That is quite a thing to know, that you can save your own life, from a coughdrop or from whatever dangers come into your path. Loved it.
ariana, you need to stop talking about doing your own trach, you're really freaking me out there:-)
Nana, I was never a girl scout but I am ALWAYS prepared. I could do it too (i think). ok but this idea I love: We all can save ourselves
ah! there's nothing wrong with being prepared, and i agree, the idea of being able to save ourselves is useful. but still, a tracheotomy, just...yech! i've got an aversion to blood, and a phobia for the idea of being cut by anything, so if it came down to me doing a trach on myself, it's possible i'd die before i got the balls. then again, we never know what we're capable of 'til the trial is upon us. i hope i never have to find out i guess is what i'm saying.
Ariana, Trey--thanks for coming by, guys. I wish more people did, but you know, I write for you guys. Seriously. And for that silly man who went and left me to perform my own tracheotomy. Trey, I know what you mean. I'm fairly modest about my late-blooming talent, but even I know my shit's better than some of the featured stuff.

Ariana--Let's start a "Tracheotomy Club" in which we explore different ways to extricate ourselves from all kinds of situations! For the initiation, prospective members rush into a McDonalds and grab a straw and a plastic fork...Sorry, nanatehay. Try not to picture this :)
Sirenita, you and I will meet one day, I am sure of it and then you can explain all the stuff you wrote on Trey's post!

I know that you will get more notice and more readers, trust me on this, I KNOW THINGS. Also, it just take time is all. in the almost two months that i have been here i have seen at least 3 amazing writers start and slowly but surely build an audience (and those are just the ones I follow). It will happen.

P.S. ok, if you want to freak everyone out at McDonald's i'm in., :)
Nana, you could do it i think
Ariana, I truly believe that you know things. I'm amazed at everything you know. I'm sure we'll meet and we'll discuss Trey's indictment of the human race over a bottle of wine.
it's possible i could do it ariana, though it makes me shudder to imagine it, and i've rarely heard of anything more apalling or hilarious than a "tracheotomy club." god help the staff at mcdonald's.

and sirenitalake, ariana's right. i've seen it happen before; you're such a great writer that slowly but surely people will begin reading your posts. i'm willing to bet that ariana could write great stuff herself, even though she claims to be a "non-writing" blogger.
Still no readers I see besides lovely Ariana and Mr. Nanatehay. Hmmm....
This is a absolutely wonderful. I just discovered you thanks to nanatehay, immediately made you a friend, and plan to read all your posts.
Hey, a cough drop can kill you just as dead as a rhino! I feel bad saying that I enjoyed it, since you almost died, but your writing is excellent. I could feel your panic and breathlessness as I read along. You can be a walking Public Service Announcement for the Heimlich Maneuver!
The best part of this piece is that since you've written it, we know you will be okay, so we can laugh as well as be horrified.

Wonderful. I live alone, and when something near-death happens to me (oops, slipping on the wet bathtub!) I always think, while almost dying, "why am I so stupid?"
So true! We all imagine dramatic endings, and when they (nearly) arrive, they're often so prosaic.

I'm glad you survived, and glad Nana pointed me in this direction.
Found my way to your story via Nanatehay, and glad I did! Very funny post; glad you survived the cough drop of death because I look forward to hearing more. Rated.
Thanks to nana for the heads-up! Read, rated, and friended! You can write, and you're damned funny. Glad to see you in the OS swimming pool!
Fine writing and glad I stopped by.
I LOVED this post, I loved the sense of humour, the style and the story! Super rated and added to my friend´s list. Nanatehay posted your link, that´s how I found you out. Fantastic!!
That is a marvelous piece of writing. Kept me engaged through the whole thing. Most impressive.

A thanks to nanatehay for pointing me your way...

This was a harrowing story, yet told with humor. You certainly have great presence of mind to figure out how to dislodge that cough drop. I'm sort of over-conscious of breathing now, after reading of you nearly choking.

You are an excellent writer.
This was a great story. You had my attention from the beginning to the end. I was horrified for you and laughing. Thanks to Nana for the heads up on your writing. Great post!
Great post and holy toledo, glad you lived!

I look forward to reading more about you and your work. :)
What a great story! Death by cough drop. Not a flattering obit. Death by rhino has a much nicer ring to it, but as you say, dead is dead.
It's hard to appreciate what it's like to not have any air and to fight the panic that keeps hammering at the door of your thoughts. I wrote my near death story on the same subject, yet under entirely different circumstances.
Cool heads prevail under crisis. I'm amazed you got that thing unlodged by yourself. A difficult feat on a good day. And congrates on your well deserved EP.
The stories today are just getting better and better, and this one is mesmerizing. I love mesmerizing reads.

Thanks, naneh, for the tip.

Rated, of course.
First, thanks to nana for pointing me your way. Second, this is very well written. And, third, thanks to your quick thinking you are here to write it. I look forward to more from you.

great story. welcome to os.
Thank you, all of you, for coming and being kind enough to comment. Thank you nanahetay and Ariana for your encouragement. You guys are the best.
I hope you don't let the seeming void at the other side of the "publish" button interfere with your determination to write and post here. Every now and then, the void turns into a flood. It shouldn't be that long 'til you find that out. (btw - nanatehay's recommendation is what worked for me.) There's more to OS than the distillation process which produces cover stories, etc. I thought you wove an incredible amount of interest into this one. (rated)
Such a wonderfully written story! And now that I've found you, I've got to go back and see what I've missed....
oh, and I've practiced the trach operation for Years... in my head. I've even told the girls about it, shown them what to do.

They might think I'm nuts, but someday, one of us is gonna have to trach someone on a plane or on a ship somewhere, and We're gonna know how to do it!
This is very well-done. You show the dangerous that lurks in the mundane, which isn't easy to do.
"I imagined myself doing the universal "I’m choking" gesture and them assuming I was dying to perform a blowjob. "

Little spot of pee with that line...
Connie, you can join the Tracheotomy Club, where we trade trach tips and devise ingenious escapes from all kinds of dire situations. It amazes me that other women have also considered doing this.

I think I'd like to be a Canadian, especially if nanahetay invades. What fun!

Thanks again, everyone, for your kinds words and encouragement. I will keep writing, but I can't imagine it gets better than this.
Excellent story! And a well deserved Editor's Pick.

Nana knows how to pick em most time(he picked me too, but hey only one bad choice!! ~giggle~ ~L~)

Rated for porn star neighbors
For the record, the newel post isn't a bad option at all if you happen to be choking; most people aren't able to put enough force behind their own fist to dislodge whatever they're choking on. The backs of sturdy chairs work, too.

Also consider LifeSavers instead of cough drops if you're looking to soothe a scratchy throat. They do virtually the same thing, and LifeSavers really live up to their name if you happen to choke on one.

So you're covered if it happens again, go ahead and teach the porn-star neighbors the Heimlich. To make it interesting for them, just tell them you're really into alternative openings, and that when you point to your bellybutton, they should insert a stiff rod and bang for all they're worth. ;)

Seriously, it's a good idea for everyone to know the Heimlich. I taught my kids when they started school, using a method they thought was awesome: they got to practice it on my roommate, who obligingly spat a mouthful of Skittles across the room when the kids correctly demonstrated the technique. They also enjoyed the technique to use on larger people (little arms don't fit around plus-sized people, and the kids have an extremely large grandma); stand facing them, draw back your arm and punch the space below the breasts and above the bellybutton.

Nice post, and I'm glad you survived the experience. =)
This was a good read. Hilarious in the right places - Peece!
Amost finished off by the Smith Brothers, eh? I knew those guys had shifty eyes.. Welcome to the OS.

Great story.
Wow, Sirenita, what a terrifying experience. It is such a mundane little mistake -- hence the terror and the suspicious glance I darted at the bag of cough drops on my endtable...
Great read! Sex death and comedy. Nicely done.
Well done! I'm friending you so I will be sure to see others to come.
Bravo! A terrific story, well told. I'll watch for your stuff.
Wow, this is an amazing story! I was truly amused and horrified at the same time. However, I want to hear more about your husband and how he went from being not sure he was in love with you and moving to Japan to marrying you. Rated for excellence... hope to see a lot more!
Thank you, thank you. I'm so amazed at this response, I hardly need a cough drop to choke up.

Luluandphoebe, I don't think you're my mother's age. I think you're probably a kid. Anyway, I'm a withered old crone (but good looking!).

Thank you, sickofstupid, for all the input. I do think it was a chair I had heard about. This really is important to know. My sister told me a story about a guy she knew who had to do a Heimlich on a first date. Buzz kill, but saved her life. Thanks also for the porn star first aid tip.

Is that how Lifesavers got their name, because they don't choke you? Nowadays, I go straight to the cognac. Much safer that way.
'Bout time you got noticed! I too wondered why no one seemed to notice such a good writer. And this is another great story! :)
What's this!?!
I see you've got some readers now Ms. Sirenita, and an Editor's Pick too. I'd say they couldn't have come to a more deserving writer, so congratulations on both.
A lot of Italian operas are about death by cough drop.
Great read with the morning coffee! I like your title much better than the one they put on this piece for the OS cover.
What a beautifully written post! I loved your description of your studio apartment; it made me want to move in pronto. I'm glad that you turned out to be such a clear thinker under terrifying circumstances.
What a great story, well written with a great sense of humor. You make the reader almost feel like it is happening to them. The hot sex in the beginning didn't hurt either.
What a great story! A superbly written post. You are gifted and that's why you are still here today. You are a fine, fine writer. Rated. Friended.
Nice post! Love the porn star neighbors.

I fell asleep with a cough drop in my mouth once, and I woke up biting down on it. In my confused, sleepy mind, I thought the splintered cough drop was my broken teeth, and for a few seconds, I completely panicked. Then I noticed the cherry flavor. At least I know now it could have been much worse. I'll never go to sleep with a cough drop in my mouth again.
A timely post for me. I have been sucking on cough drops during the past 2 nights! I'm wondering about chewing them up first? Thanks!
I've read this about 8 times now, and it's not getting old. Tour de force! Give us more!
funny survivor story, loved your writing.
as a teenager I managed to suck an entire scoop of chocolate ice cream down my throat, still not sure how I did that, but it was nearly death by chocolate for me--or it at least seemed a very very slow melting. rated for racy.
i swallowed a Dorito whole one time and it got lodged sideways in my esophagus, there was blood and everything. it might explain my fear of tracheotomies.
Great post! I've spent hours and hours thinking of the horrible things that could happen to a person, and this is definitely one of them. When my kids were small, I never wanted to leave the house even to get the mail because if a crazed cougar got me, then who would work the Tivo for them?? WHO? So anyway, now that I hear a real life story that reinforces my paranoia, I have to thank you.

Trey Montana, please point me in the direction of the cats and dogs fucking video. haha
Ms. Angrymom, I believe the videos are to be found at:

And if you're interested in such...peculiarities, please feel free to visit my webpage at:

But...Ms.Angrymom...your avatar is lovely by the way...have you ever considered a career in aromatherapy?
Okay. I'm going to study this, like a course. I want to write like you. What wit, what personality, what a way with words!
Of all the horrible, mundane things that can happen to a person, tracheotomy by Dorito ranks very high. Members of the Tracheotomy Club will carry a sheathed Dorito hanging from their belts.
it wouldn't have been so bad if it had been one of the round kind, but it was a triangular one, with three sharp points. i thought i was gonna die:)
Wow! You resourceful woman, you! It's amazing how smart and on point we become (at least some of us) in really scary situations. Though I would have been curious to see how the porn stars handled you, as well. Perhaps you can write a fictionalized piece about that!
yes, I'm late to the party, but just have to add to the chorus who love this story and love your writing, gripping, funny, sexy and observant
"I’ve always been one to accept the good things that come to me, without looking them in the mouth." I busted up...sorry but I had a vision of you accepting a gift, a horse with no teeth.

Then I got to the porn star neighbors and was on the floor laughing. Glad you lived to tell this story and more.
Fourteen close calls at last count only three of which put me in hospital... must be some reason for me to still be here. R&R
If true, this is a great story. If made up, it would be great writing. Either way, the next time this happens, do what I did. Breathe through your nose. Of course I know it's not going to happen. I just wish it could be that easy. Love and kisses my friend.
you had me laughing with your brilliantly witty rendition and in deep admiration at your cool reasoning in crisis. you are your very own hero. I shall never look at a cough drop the same way again.