The Choking Game

Levi Draher came back from the dead. Other players were not so lucky.

In the studio, mother and son sit in tall chairs and stare into a television camera about five yards away. Geraldo's voice is channeled through their earpieces.

“Do you ever think about the fact that you were already on the other side there, and but for the intervention of your mom and others, you wouldn't have come back?” Geraldo asks.

“I guess I'm pretty special to be alive,” Levi says through The Grin.

Carrie and Levi give school presentations on the choking game.
Daniel Kramer
Carrie and Levi give school presentations on the choking game.
If a kid doesn't know how to play the choking game...
If a kid doesn't know how to play the choking game...

Not one to suffer fools, Geraldo says, “Are you being sincere now, or are you being a wiseguy?”

It's as if Levi had the easy part in this whole thing. He had the luxury of passing out. As he waited to live or die, he didn't have to suffer, like Carrie. In the Lincoln on the way home, Carrie says that, for months after the accident, she heard wailing ambulances that weren't there. She lived in a haunted house, where she would walk into a room and see her son's corpse sprawled on the floor. And as she talks of this hell she had to live through, Levi is telling the chauffeur that you can make an explosive by mixing Mentos and Diet Coke.

Gradually, the phantom sirens faded, and Carrie wouldn't see her son's body everywhere. But the one thing that lingers is the panic that takes over outside a door. The hallucinations out in the open were one thing, but she never knows what's behind the door.

Levi's recovery was remarkable. He had been discharged on day six, in time for the Marine Corps Ball. Carrie was still in awe.

“He led me out on the floor for the traditional mother-son dance,” she recalls. “I had no idea what music was playing...I couldn't take my eyes off his face.”

She has that memory of his face, that same old Levi with the goofy grin who was returned to her for reasons she'll never understand. And she has the memory of a cold blue face with blind eyes. It's something that Levi doesn't understand now, and may not for a while, but whenever Carrie Draher stands outside her son's door, she never knows which face she's going to see.

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