Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Milkfish (bangus)

I love milkfish; I haven't had it in years. So when my sister-in-law stewed some for dinner, I couldn't resist; the delicately flavored meat, the chunks of rich belly fat (actually good for you, cardiologically speaking) on steamed white rice.

Would that I resisted--halfway through devouring the fish's meat, I felt something stab at the soft flesh of my throat. "Uh-oh," I said. Yep, it was a fishbone. I swallowed, hoping it'd go down. Nope. It was stuck, and from what I could tell at a painful angle. "Not good," I said.

Everyone gave advice; a glass of water, a banana (presumably the chunks of fruit would force it down ). Nothing worked. I didn't mind the pain too much--it was more irritating than agonizing. What I was really worried about was that it would infect and start swelling (no, I'm not being paranoid; happened to me once and it hurt like a motherwhatever). The missus told me she's had worse--that she'd had one stuck for a month. Very reassuring.

Anyway, after dinner, we took the U-Haul truck to the self-storage space to unload in the dark, with no working lightbulb (the self storage facility was brand new), and all the time I was lugging boxes and furnitures from truck to storeroom, every time I swallowed it was like a little hook tugging in my larynx. Sometimes I'd forget all about it (the work was that hard), then I'd swallow tenatively to check; yep, still painful. Sometimes it wouldn't hurt, and I'd feel an irrational rush of joy, and swallow again--and then get that familiar barbed sting (it would actually shift, from one side of the throat to the other).

At one point, I asked what might happen if we had to go to the emergency room; I was told that they'd have to put me out with general anesthesia, to keep me from gagging--a lot of trouble, in effect, and expensive to boot. Besides, fishbones soften, and often slip away without much further ado; sometimes in an hour, sometimes the next day. I pointed out that the missus had one for a month; she shrugged and said sometimes it takes time.

We got home with an empty U Haul truck at two in the morning, dead tired; I didn't even care all that much anymore about that damned fishbone. Everyone just flopped down to sleep. For some reason I couldn't--well, for a specific reason, actually; I couldn't swallow my own saliva, and my throat was parched (not to mention I kept thinking--rightly or wrongly--that it was starting to swell).

So I stuck a finger down my throat. I'd done that before, and all the reaction I got from everyone was "That won't work; have another banana (I never ate so much of the fruit in my life as that night)." It didn't help that I kept gagging, and that the gagging just kept sending that fishbone jabbing deeper into my by-now very tender gullet.

For the upteenth time I passed my finger down my throat in a futile attempt to try dislodge it, when I realized--hey, that wiry thing touching the tip of my finger: that's not bone. At least, that's not my bone, I mean a bone that belonged in my throat; I just belatedly realized that throats shouldn't have bones, at least none that you can feel with your fingers from the inside going in. It was the fish bone! I could just brush one end of it with my fingertips.

I wondered--could I actually do it? I stuck two fingers down my throat, felt the tips pinch the very end of the thorn, pulled my fingers out. And found myself staring at what look like a half-inch of fine wire, with frayed ends like that of a copper cable, or a cat-o-nine tails (the better to hook you with, my dear). I swallowed. It was gone. I'd pulled a fishbone out of my own throat.


Ronald said...

Noel that was so bad. Sorry to hear that. My grandmother used to tell me that if you swallow a bonefish, let some cats do the scratching and it will alleviate your problem. Haven't tried it, man and I think it remains a myth until now.

Quentin said...

I wonder if this is one of those things that count as being macho. Remember it used to be part of some code of machismo to be able to endure pain, like Willie Nelson cauterizing a wound with gunpowder in Fred Schepisi's "Barbarosa" or Stallone treating his own wounds in Rambo? Or Mr. Bean drilling his own teeth (and getting the wrong tooth fixed).

Noel Vera said...

ronald: sheesh, that was months ago! No big deal.

If I waited for a cat to scratch me, I'd still have the thorn. Prefer to take matters into my own hands.

quentin (Evil Twin Brother, in other words): Mr. Bean may have done it, but Inspecter Closeau did it first.