How to save a life

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Possum tastes like pork. Crocodile is rather disappointing because it is bland and not fearsome in flavour at all. Wallaby doesn’t taste anything like lamb, contrary to the recommendation of the maitre-d, it actually tastes like venison and can kill you if you’re not careful.

Dinner with your ex can be uncomfortable enough, especially when it’s only been a few months and you are both on that tentative path to becoming friends instead of lovers. Dinner with your ex while eating a variety of Australian native flora and fauna can also be slightly absurd. Not to mention death-defying if you don’t chew your food properly.

Dinner with my ex last week was all of these things – alas no koala was on the menu though – and also so much more. It was the first time we had sat down opposite each other for months. The last time I saw him I was in the midst of the previously mentioned, now rather infamous, Kangaroo Point fiasco after he turned up at the same pub in what was surely a case of exquisite bad timing. I was having trouble speaking by that stage, which I’m sure filled him with pangs of desire and wistfulness about our broken relationship.

Needless to say, I am endeavouring to put the past behind us, because while we didn’t make a very successful, nor long-lasting couple, I think we have enough in common to perhaps become some sort of friends. There were plenty of raised eyebrows amongst my friends when I mentioned I was going to dinner with my ex. It’s not a date, I said to them all. We’re just going to sample a variety of Australian native animals – including some that are national emblems. Indeed, I must admit, I quite liked the perverseness of that.

We had a platter of the various critters mentioned above for entree, then I ordered the wallaby shanks (just like lamb – yeah right) and he ordered the kangaroo. My ex doesn’t talk a lot. I used to think that was because he was the strong silent type and that everything that came out of his mouth was profound and insightful. Now I know he just doesn’t talk a lot. About anything. I do (that will probably come as a surprise to some of you) and it was while I was recounting a tale of my utter happiness being single, I noticed that not only was he not listening, he also didn’t appear to be breathing.

What happened next will always be a matter of contention between him and me but I did thank him on the night for giving a writer such fabulous fodder to work with. I had offered him one of my wallaby shanks and he had taken a bite of the meat (which doesn’t taste like lamb) which appeared to have got lodged in his throat. It also could have been a brussel sprout – it is a mystery we will never know the answer too.

He chugged back a glass of water, while his face got redder and redder. I stupidly asked: “Are you choking?” but in hindsight there was no way he could answer. I started smacking (he says I tapped him) on the back between the shoulder blades. It was quite a classy restaurant – well until that point I suppose – and I could feel dozens of disdainful eyeballs fall upon us. No one came to help though, not even the maitre-d who obviously doesn’t know what the food in his restaurant actually tastes like. As I banged him between the shoulders, I started to panic. Admittedly not as much as him, but I knew there was no way I could do the Heimlich manoeuvre because he is twice the size of me. Which is partly the reason why I used to like him – a lot.

The next thing I knew, the offending wallaby (or sprout depending on who you believe) hopped down his throat and he did a wee water spew neatly into the plate in front of him. Not a drop over the sides. It was most impressive. He also managed to say: “Stop hitting me” which I did, maybe after one final tiny slightly unnecessary cathartic tap on his back.

The whole thing probably only took 10 seconds, but has been the conversation of choice and debate ever since. I jokingly say that I saved his life. He says that I didn’t and I should have left him alone. Maybe he’s right. A few months ago when I was angry and sad about missed opportunities and potentially misplaced love, I might have thought briefly about doing nothing (although it’s not in my DNA to do nothing). But not now. I’ve finally realised that just because you get on well with someone doesn’t mean you should be in a relationship with them. Especially if one of you may be broken. It took me 39 years and 11 months to learn that.

Later than night, over soothing whisky and vodka, we argued for some two hours about whether my exertions had helped or hindered him. I don’t think he realised I was actually winding him up (he thinks he has the monopoly on that) but he did say thank you as we said goodbye later that evening. The next day he sent me a photo of a packet of lifesavers (see above). I don’t know whether that means he’s changed his mind about my life-saving skills or not – I’ve never been able to work him out. Cryptic bastard. But, in the end, it doesn’t really matter what he thinks. I would help him again because that is what friends do.

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