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  • Writer's pictureJessika Brust

The Sneeze

Updated: Feb 13, 2020

I think I'm allergic to romance. For as long as I can remember, ever since I've been old enough to think about such things, I sneeze whenever I fantasize. In the same way that most people feel a buzzing headache when you point a finger at the bridge of their nose, directly between their eyes -- I feel a buzzing when I visualize the man of my dreams coming in to kiss me. And just when he gets close, the buzz becomes overwhelming and I sneeze to relieve the pressure. It's always an odd sneeze too -- completely out of the blue, without any windup whatsoever. So if you see me staring off into space with a languid smile, and then hear an abrupt sneeze...well, now you know where my mind has been.

The situation I was in on that particular night was hardly conducive to romance, and all I wanted was to get back to college, snuggle up with my boyfriend, and sleep. We were in that grubby old 16-seat passenger van again, and the ride home from this gig was brutally long. Any other bandleader would've put his group in a hotel for the night, but not Mr. Mallard. Save money no matter the risk, seemed to be his modus operandi. All my bandmates had long since run out of the energy to sit upright, and had leaned or fallen to either side. There was little room left for me, and as the youngest and most nimble bandmate, I volunteered myself to lay on the floor.

I brought my trusty blanket and body pillow to protect me from the layers of grime and gravel that had built up under those seats. I picked up the stray pieces of trash and tossed them in the bin, then made my nest.

My body was so tired, but as is usually the case after a show, I had to bring my brain down from an adrenaline surge, and I simply couldn't doze off. My mind drifted, from the homework assignments I had due, to how much longer it would be before our next school holiday, to finding a job after graduation, and to finally being at home with my boyfriend.

Silence fell over the whole van, which is rare. Normally there's somebody talking business to someone, but we were all spent. Everyone was laying or leaning on something, save Mr. Mallard, who had fallen asleep in the front passenger seat sitting straight up. He was so rotund that he couldn't have leaned on anything if he tried, but the arm rests and seat belt kept him from rolling off his chair.

In my mind, my boyfriend was greeting me as I rang him up to come let me in his building. He was putting his arms around me first, then helping me carry my luggage up to his apartment. Then he was pulling me to him once again, helping me out of my coat and shoes, gazing at me lovingly with his piercing blue eyes, and moving closer to my mouth with desire, then...


Then a deafening THUD, and Steven Mallard bellowed, "GOOODDDD DAMMIT!!!!!!!!!"

My sudden sneeze had startled good ol' Steve out of sleep so violently that he had jumped and hit is head on the ceiling of the van, then cussed like a sailor. Everyone else was subsequently woken up by that odd trilogy of loud, unforeseen interruptions. Slowly everyone came to, and as they realized what had just happened, a timid wave of chuckles swept through the cabin, which gained momentum and turned into an all-out laughing fit. Steve was muttering under his breath, looking for a reason to scold me -- but not even he could come up with a reason to reprimand a lady for sneezing. Luckily he didn't know why I'd sneezed...

When people started to calm back down, the driver looked back at me with an appreciative smile and said, "God bless you."

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