“Even the little kids… one might have a knife”: An American vampire in Juarez (Pt II)

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A few years ago, I stopped being able to spit.

Saliva is produced by ducted glands that squirt it into your mouth when needed, to begin the process of breaking down your food and to lubricate your throat so that you can swallow and speak. In my case, one day, my sublingual salivary gland simply stopped squirting, for no immediately apparent reason. It didn’t stop producing saliva — it just stopped squirting it. So it swelled up and became incredibly painful.

I discovered very quickly that if I reached into my mouth and squeezed it a certain way, it would release the pent-up saliva — an activity which medical types refer to as “expressing” the gland, a phrase which I find weirdly disturbing. Specifically, it would spray the pressurized saliva in a tiny jet that would invariably arc out of my mouth onto the bathroom mirror or my shirt, sort of like when you’re a kid and you spit water through your teeth (a process known to North Texas children in the ’80s, as “gleeking”). It was gross, but the alternative — letting my blocked gland fill with saliva until it burst, like the udders of an unmilked cow — was obviously worse…

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