I write this now because my own olfactory outpourings have turned into blobby pistachio blancmange on the translucent tissue on my computer keyboard. It's late, I'm tired, I'm over the half-life of the Lemsip capsules and, in general, my nose feels like it's been gently sandpapered for the past 18 hours. I've got a fucking cold. I have the kind of rattiness that even falafel can't shift. And you know that means real trouble.
I've tried Berocca - which would be somewhat more appetising were it not that 'first piss of the day' colour - and I have tried oranges. I have eaten fruit and I have eaten stodge. I have tried everything to halt this cold in its tracks.
And yet, the snot keeps coming. An unstoppable tide. A giant dangling polymer of goo. An explosion of nose jizz.
There is a memory that I keep in my brain - or rather, I try to keep out of my brain - which pops back in there, from time to time. Generally I can go three or four months without ever remembering it, which is a relief. It's one of those things you try and forget about, such is the horror, but which keeps on sneaking back into your mind, whether you want it to or not - and believe me, I want it not; I want not the snot.
But there is no way of keeping it away. Just as my nose leaks with a globby salty tide of mucus, so my brain finds itself overrun with memories it doesn't want, which it seems powerless to keep at bay. And so, no matter how hard I struggle against the inevitable, whenever I have a cold, I remember this.
I am seven years old. It is lunchtime, and I'm at school. We had tables for school dinners and packed lunches. I had packed lunches. I am eating a sandwich cut into quarters - it's probably cheese, or salmon paste, or something inoffensive like that. I don't know why, but my eye is drawn to the boy sitting across the table, to the right, facing me. I am looking at him. And then it happens. It happens every time. I keep wanting it not to happen, but it happens.
From his nostril - his left, my right - comes a dangling worm of snot. Bright green, I promise you. Luminous, almost. The very thought of the colour makes me gag. And I am watching as it pokes its gooey green head out of the nostril and takes a leap with gravity downwards.
This boy - I think his name was Jeremy; he had dandruff and used to get in fights - is unaware of what's happening. And no-one can tell him, because we are all transfixed by the snot-snake tumbling downwards, downwards, so inexorably downwards. He is eating a sandwich. I think it is like my sandwich, cut into quarters, and maybe in wholemeal bread, maybe it's something like an egg sandwich, I don't know. And as he opens his mouth to take a bite, the vast green gusher of snot lands on the sandwich, and before he knows what's going on, he's eaten it.
He's eaten it all! He's eaten his own snot. And he doesn't know it! But I can see it! I can see it all!
At this point, I turn around and retch, and retch, and retch, and retch. I hurl that sandwich onto the wooden bench, as far as my guts can squeeze it.
Even as I type these words, I shudder and retch even now.
I am glad, though, that I have shared that memory with you. If you should ever see me, and I have a cold, and I suddenly get a faraway look in my eyes, and start being sick into a bin, you'll know why. Please forgive me.
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