Requiem for a Mouth Breather

There were two fat guys at the symphony that evening, the guy to my left and the guy to his right. We did not arrive together.

The man who walked into the Rudolfinum that evening was the fattest Czech I had ever seen. He waddled up the aisle with a dignity peculiar to sea mammals, and wore the somnolent mask of a pasta-stuffed mafia boss.

At first, I watched with mesmerized awe, following this member of the chubby brotherhood as he bobbed up the aisle like a parade float. I admired his form until, as it became clear where he was heading, horror overtook awe. He wedged himself in next to me and, since he lacked a neck, turned his entire upper body to appreciate me.

My first thought was surely his: the Rudolfinum seated fat men together and we were the victims of some strange form of discrimination. My second thought was that we were meant to be together, drawn by gravitational pull – the giant Jupiter matched with his chubby orbiting moon, Europa.

Then the flutes began on one of my favorite pieces of music – Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune. I sat back and waited to be seduced and nuzzled by symphonic kittens. However, at that very moment, my partner in carbohydrates opened his mouth like a PEZ dispenser and began breathing at the rate and volume of Darth Vader.

At birth, people are given the random gift of something. Some are gifted with the ability to coo large animals, others get a built-in GPS system, others the ability to do long division in their head.

I was given the gift of obsessive awareness.

This gift has no off-switch. If I’m teaching twenty students and nineteen of them are deeply involved in the class, I will home in on the one student who is looking at their mobile or doodling. This one person will drive me to the brink of insanity. If I’m lucky, class ends before a melt-down occurs.

As the mouth-breather continued his personal brand of mental torture, I looked around the room at the other people. Their faces portrayed absolute joy and subdued rapture. On the mouth-breather’s left, his incongruously slim wife didn’t seem to notice the constant, maddening sound coming from the air-vent next to her. To my right, my incongruously attractive date, K, didn’t notice it either. In my mind, the mouth-breather had become as much part of the symphony as the flautist and the violinists. He might as well have gone on stage and breathed into a microphone like a Mongolian throat singer. I was alone in my misery.

Fortunately, I was given another gift at birth to counteract the first: An overactive imagination.

And right there in the middle of the symphony, overactive imagination battled obsessive awareness over the mouth-breather. I imagined the clarinetist shooting a poison dart into Mouth-breather’s throat. Then the drummer flung a drumstick like a dagger, which met MB’s forehead with a satisfied thump. Then it was the handsome Japanese man sitting to K’s right leaping over the seats and ending my misery by severing MB’s head with a katana.

By the time the mouth-breathing symphony came to an end, he had been decapitated, poisoned, stabbed, licked to death by the symphonic kittens, boiled and had committed involuntarily seppuku.

After the curtains were drawn and we gave many rounds of applause, I stood and found myself facing the mouth-breather. He gave me a warm smile and commented about the nice music. I agreed and he patted me on the back when it was clear that my Czech was not native. But he complimented me in a genuine and pleasant fashion. Then he rolled out of the aisle. The mouth-breather was nice, Dog damn him.

No bother, this gave me the opportunity to utilize my third birth-gift.


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