My father told me about almost dying once. As a young Med student in Paris he often stopped in to his girlfriends apartment after classes. Hers was a very old apartment with an ancient radiator pushed well beyond its means against the bone chilling cold of that city in January.
Claude Cohen is a bit of a teetotaler, which is why when he started to feel So, Very, Sleepy, it was alarming and not to be blamed on the good French wine that even poor students can afford. He succumbed quickly and completely to the lull and promise of just a quick nap.
His girlfriend, let’s call her Marianne, long eyelashes fluttering and limbs going limp, seeing the state of the “doctor” managed to drag herself to the telephone and place a lifesaving call to her father, a barely audible torrent of mumbles and half words, before joining Claude in a puddle of deep sleep on the floor.
No smell, no sound, just an overworked radiator and invisible wisps of gas. After he tells me this story, though I have heard it twelve times already, we sit and wonder together why they can’t just make gas small like something so as to alert people. We volley smells back and forth, laughing at the ridiculous ones like cabbage soup or dirty armpit, nodding approvingly at the good ones, like fresh compost or antiseptic spray, pleased to both be armed with such strong wits.
“Les chiens ne font pas des chats,” he says. My father’s favorite saying, only the one hundred and fifth time I’ve heard it. “Yes Papa, dogs don’t make cats,” I say and squeeze his shoulder gently.