Claude and Barry sat across from me in a booth at our favorite sandwich shop. Law school exams weren’t far off so that meant long days and nights at the library interrupted by short breaks of meaningless chatter – like arguing over the best last lines in a movie.

“But it’s done in a hokey voice-over,” Barry said, dismissively.

“Hey, will you pass a napkin?” I asked Claude, who opened his bag of Wow potato chips. He didn’t pass a napkin. Instead, he responded to Barry’s challenge.

“Dekkard was a replicant. The origami unicorn was the clue.”

“Will you pass a napkin?” I asked Barry, who looked at Claude and crooked an eyebrow. He didn’t pass me a napkin either. Instead, he just shook his head.

Claude shoveled chips into his mouth so I decided to join the fun. “Claude, I thought you told me your favorite last line was, ‘That’ll do, pig. That’ll do.'”

He wasn’t phased. “We only have a limited amount of life,” he said. “It’s just that the Replicants’ lifespan is pre-determined.”

It was obvious that no one planned to pass me a napkin or engage me in the fierce last line debate. I took a fat piece of my sandwich on my tongue, letting it rest for a moment. Leaning my head back, I looked up at the ceiling, trying to block out their conversation and the stress of my upcoming exams with the sound of my teeth crunching into the crust. It didn’t work.

Then I noticed.

“—Claude, no!” I yelled. “I hate to be the obnoxious food police, but those are Olestra-impregnated potato chips!”

He looked down at his bag of chips. “So?”

“It’s all over the news,” I said. “Those Olean chips cause unfortunate stomach issues.”

“You don’t need any more stomach issues, that’s for sure,” Barry said.

“I’m not worried,” Claude said, taking in another chip. “They’re good and only have 70 calories per serving.”

“Read the warning on the back,” I said.

Claude turned over the now empty bag of chips and began to read, “May cause abdominal cramping, loose stools and . . .”

“What?” Barry asked.

I took another bite of sandwich.

Claude’s eyes widened, “and anal leakage.”

Leakage

He looked up, hopeful. “Think I could get out of Moss’s Criminal Procedure exam for that?”

I laughed hard. I laughed so hard I started choking and turning red.

“Are you okay?” Claude asked.

I tried to answer, but it’s hard to talk when you’re choking to death on an evil turkey melt lodged in your throat. Instead, I flailed my arms and did the universal sign for choking.

They just stared at me.

“Is this how it ends?” I thought. “All my hard work to become a respected lawyer – and I’m going to die from laughing over an anal leakage warning?”

If they were just going to sit there, I was going to save myself. I got up and leaned over the table, driving my fist towards myself with an upward thrust. It didn’t work.

“She’s choking!” Claude yelled as he pushed Barry out of the booth. “Do something!”

Barry stood behind me and started a very weak Heimlich Maneuver – on my stomach.

“This is it,” I thought. “My last lines should reveal some deep insight or say something that should have been said. They shouldn’t be about Olestra-impregnated potato chips! Maybe I can quickly scratch something profound down on that napkin.”

Thankfully, I was given another chance to recite my last lines because Barry’s next shot was a winner. A chunk of sandwich flew onto the table, prompting an emphatic “Ewe” from Claude.

Heimlich

Seventeen years later, this story came up in a string of Facebook comments. After laughing, remembering my near-death-Olean experience, it got me thinking.

I hope that when my actual time comes – a long, long, long, time from now – I don’t feel that same “last line” pressure. I hope that by then I’ve already revealed whatever insight I’ve gained. I hope I’ve left no words unsaid.

That way, maybe I can move onto the next chapter whispering my favorite movie line – one that may not be profound, but will be cherished by those I tuck in at night.

Micah: Goodnight, Mommy.
Me: Goodnight, Micah.
Micah: Goodnight, Daddy.
Barrett: Goodnight, Micah.
Micah: Goodnight, Maddox.
Maddox: Goodnight, MyMy.
Micah: Goodnight, Ned.
Barrett: Goodnight, Ned.
Maddox: Night night, Ned.
Me [turning off the light]: Goodnight, Ned.

– Three Amigos