A midsummer's night, a cool breeze shakes off the last of the day's stifling heat. The trees wave a silent farewell to the day, and usher in the perfect evening. The streets are still aglow in the last moments of the red sunset, and as darkness falls, they step into the restaurant for a quiet birthday dinner. It's still their favourite eatery, the place where they first met, he a waiter in his parents' business, putting his teenage years to good use and saving some money. She was the shy daughter of regular diners. When they married, they took over the business.
They had sold the restaurant several years ago, but it had retained its character under the new ownership, and as it still felt like home, they would always go back for special occasions, and were always treated as royalty each time they did. Her birthday was one of those special occasions.
They sat at their usual table, hidden away in a corner behind a screen. It had been their own private hideaway when they were teenagers, and it remained so well into their adult life. The service was, as always, excellent, the food was top grade, and, most importantly, the company was intimate and loving. They sat and talked about their lives, their jobs, their futures. Their kids, babysat at home by their grandparents, were central to their plans. They talked about school achievements, nursery drawings, friends coming to play, and how they were growing up so fast.
"We have everything we wanted, and everything to live for", he said.
"I know. But if I don't go to the bathroom now, I may explode, and that might ruin our plans!"
They laughed, and as she left the table after their dessert bowls were emptied, she picked up a striped mint sweet and popped it in her mouth.
Less than ten minutes later, there were four of us crowded into that bathroom, as well as her frantic, distraught husband and the restaurant manager looking lost and scared. She lay on the floor, her breathing stopped, her heart firing a useless, chaotic attempt at a rhythm, she was a vision of suspended animation.
Equipment flew in all directions, instructions given, actions undertaken. We would breathe for her, we'd pump her heart for her, forcing the oxygen and the blood to fulfil their duty against their will. The air from the mask was going nowhere. Her lungs wouldn't move, declining the offer of the oxygen that was being forced into them. Something must be sitting in the way and fighting our actions. After another round trying to beat and shock the heart into action, someone took another look at the airway.
It wasn't there the first time we looked, I could swear to it, but now it sat staring innocently back at us, just out of reach. It was the round mint, all along, that had lodged itself in the airway, trying to complete her circle of life, and kill her on her birthday. Five seconds later, a pair of forceps flew across the bathroom and were used to fish the mint out of her throat. We breathed a few more breaths for her, whilst all the while her heart was being operated remotely, from the outside-in.
In the ambulance, it finally happened.
She took a breath.
We all stopped to watch her, to check the monitors, to make sure that our imagination wasn't playing tricks on us.
There were no tricks. She was pulling through.
By the time we reached the hospital, there was nothing left for us to do but hope and pray.
As the adrenaline wore off and the ambulance was being returned to its normal state, I had a weird thought.
Crazily, I wondered what had happened to the mint.