Inside the cafe flecks of dust float on dry air, catch in a morning sunbeam and glitter, mimic the snow outside drifting down then contradict it by rising as though oven-baked, leashed to infinitesimal air currents caused by a conspiracy of seemingly inconsequential movements: a customer shuffling crabwise to let others pass, gusts from space heaters positioned above each door, exhausted steam from coffee machines and ducts at foot level dispensing warm sighs. Dust.
The blood is drying on the inside of my nose. The sensation in my left nostril is such that I can picture the red husk as it forms, feeling like the papery guts of peanut shell.
As a teenager my school had been so dusty that I threw a fit of sneezes each morning. My left pocket dispensed fresh tissue and my right pocket accepted the used. A more athletic boy ridiculed me for this practice. One day in history a short girl informed me that my sneezes always come in groups of three. That was the first time I had felt that girls could notice me.
My nose is sensitive to the dry weather. I sleep with a humidifier but it doesn’t seem to help. I have tried saline spray. I have tried not blowing it so much. But then it runs and I grow anxious that the goo will dribble down to my lips.
It’s big, the nose. As a teenager I was surprised to learn that my nose was big from a girl at Taco Bell. A girl at Taco Bell smeared the insides of her burrito on my head and told me I have a big nose. I had been ignorant of this fact prior to that incident. I knew a guy with a nose more birdlike than mine so I thought I understood what a big nose was. I hadn’t considered my own. Not for a second.
The girl had thought she heard me refer to her friend as “faggot.” It was another boy at my table, but she hadn’t noticed him, she had noticed me. Because the nose.
The blood is dry now. I should leave it there until I’m alone. When I’m alone I can evacuate the nose without offending anyone. It seems to me that though there are many variations on the common standards of hygiene, there is little patience on the part of those who hold them for any deviation from such standards. Certainly there is not empathy. If I carried hand sanitizer I’d still offend.
As a teenager I would break the tabs off pop cans, walk into another room and hide them in my nose, then come back to where my friends were and some time later pull them out mid-conversation, much to their surprise, disgust, entertainment, delight, horror, fascination, bewilderment. Girls noticed.
These days my partner pokes fun at the nose in an affectionate way. I had been ashamed of the nose. Then I had utilized the nose in ploys to gain attention, believing such behavior to prove personal acceptance or peace perhaps. Now and then someone will ask me to cover the nostrils with my fingertips and blow; a process which results in my nose taking on dimensions similar to those of a balloon. Now and then I will pull away my fingers and the onlooker will see the flecks of red paper and I will know that I have been discovered.
Alex Tedesco is a fiction writer with zero commendations to his credit. Constantly beginning new projects while failing to complete others, he is particularly susceptible to the pleasurable distractions of our modern world. Look, he wrote something. Contact Alex at firstname.lastname@example.org