Over the past few days, my nose has been rubbed so raw it’d give Gordon Ramsay a conniption. It’s the third time in my four months of college that I’ve gotten sick, so I’ve about come to terms with this becoming a regular thing. It’s not like I can do anything about it anyway.
I mean, I could probably eat healthier. And exercise more regularly, instead of in intense bursts when working out becomes momentarily less unattractive than working. And wear clothes appropriate to the temperature outside, rather than slinging on a jacket over the same five shirts I wear each day of the week in alternating order to throw people off track. And drink more water so that I don’t sustain myself on a state of near-constant dehydration.
But I’m trying not to delude myself here. I’ve always been better at dealing with the symptoms rather than the problem, and I see no reason other than my wellbeing to alter my approach.
Thus, I spent the past three days in the constant companionship of tissues. I carried an entire Kleenex box under my arm as I ran across campus, inside my backpack to the dining hall, and onto my lofted bed where it slept in my embrace. The box, which garnered me the weirdest looks, was entirely necessary because the constant stream of clear nasal fluid was soaking through tissues at a rate of 1 tissue/min and because I wanted to provide strangers with the proper context for my nose rash, namely that it was from a cold and not from sniffing cherry coke.
Eventually, though, I could only take so much of wallowing in my dorm among a sizeable mountain of used tissues. I needed to take my mind off my contracted-in-the-unforgiving-chill-of-50-degree-weather cold. I was sick of being sick, and I needed a change of scenery. Thus, I agreed to go stand in the wind for four hours with some friends at the local Chinatown’s New Year festival.
On the front steps of a supermarket, we watched a lion dance, a traditional performance in which dancers maneuver giant lion costumes to the beat of a drum. (The performance culminated in a “lion” rearing up and devouring a head of lettuce hanging from the roof, an ending I can’t say I would’ve expected, though it did seem fitting.)
Booths of all sorts bordered the square, ranging from vendors selling marionette dragons, to a traveling petting zoo, to kiddie rides, to an old lady in a fancy hat registering people to vote. Most of the visitors—predominantly adults with small children—flocked toward the rock wall and mechanical bull, while I immediately began to roam for freebies.
My search inevitably led to a calligraphy booth, where you’d choose a four-character saying from a list, and they’d ink out the phrase onto a red banner for you. I eventually decided on “No worries,” because while “Soar like eagle” was a strong contender, the first phrase was slightly more applicable.
I was the first of us in line, so I waited off to the side as my friends had their sayings painted. As I stood there, a man approached me and struck up friendly conversation, starting off by asking me if I understood what my saying meant. I said yes.
Man: So you can read it?
Me: I mean, the sheet with translations also helped.
Man: *laughs* Have you been here for a while?
Me: You mean in this city? No, actually, I’m just here for college!
Man: Oh, what year are you in?
Me: I’m a freshman.
Man: And these are your friends?
I looked back as Friend 1 approached with her newly inked banner, Friend 2 right behind her, and answered in the affirmative.
Man: You all go to school together?
Me: Yeah, we’re all freshmen!
Man: Do you know about Jesus?
Friend 3 and 4, who’d just arrived, paused at the margins of the conversation as though not coming any closer would save them.
I mean, I don’t know anyone here who doesn’t know about Jesus, but the question had come out of absolutely nowhere. Just because you know about Jesus doesn’t mean you’re prepared for a pop quiz at any given moment, namely while you’re standing dumbly in a supermarket square for a festival and holding a free calendar and tangerine snagged from the McDonald’s booth.
I was completely unprepared for this unsolicited line of questioning. So were my friends, judging by the collective deer in headlights expression. Firecrackers exploded in the distance as we made panicked eye contact in a silent game of nose goes.
Man: *smiling widely* Do you know who Jesus is?
Us: … Yes.
Man: Who is he?
Friend 1: … The son of God.
Man: What’s Christmas about?
Friend 1: … A celebration of Jesus’ birth.
Man: What about Easter?
Man: Let me tell you about Jesus. I will take one minute.
Man: We are all sinners…
And because we wanted to be polite, the five of us stood there and listened. My nose started to run again and I tried to mask my sniffles, terrified that he would take this as a display of emotion and keep us there for even longer.
Eventually, he let us go, and we regrouped a couple feet away, trying to process what had just happened, why we had all just stood there in shock. Maybe we should’ve taken a leaf (ha) out of that lion’s book and just gone for it. Maybe we should’ve backed away in slow motion until out of range. Or, and this is most likely, I should have started violently choking on my nose drainage and then escaped in the confusion.
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