"Are you going to live?" she asked me, in that precise manner that did not give away the tease. It was a drama queen moment I was not going to pass up.
I played along, between elegy and ode, the bedsheet wet with sweat from fever. It was not a phone number I recognised, although the voice sounded familiar. "Boo ish dhish?" I asked through the blocked nose.
"You just disappeared," she said.
For me, she had disappeared. Her country is different, her world is different. Yet, this had to be a friend. Only friends know about disappearances, not appearances.
"Tell me, how are you?"
"I am sick. Feverish, a bad cold, my voice...(I cleared my throat for emphasis)...and a dull ache in my stomach and head..." All this to someone whose identity was yet only 'familiar'.
"Are you going to live?" she asked.
At the time, I did a vocal shrug, drawled "Bay...bee", which was 'maybe', gasped, and of course she told me who she was, and how emails she sent were bouncing back. "I thought you had given up everything and gone to the Himalayas."
And then I thought about the high altitude and breathing and it came back to my nose.
After we hung up, it struck me that a blocked nose does mean one cannot breathe, and breath is life.
So, what happens if one side of the nose is blocked — is it half a life? If both are blocked and we breathe through the mouth, are we living a borrowed life? Sometimes, I wish we could imagine breathing through ears and eyes. Perhaps we do, when there is a tap-tap sound or when we blink.
Does an upturned nose breathe the sky and a hooked nose the soil? Are larger nostrils freer, especially if they are shaped like a tear drop half way down the cheek? Do those tiny round ones drag in air like smoke from the embers of a cigarette?
I am resisting nasal drops because they dry the nose. It feels like barren earth. The thought of a blocked nose that runs is comforting in a strange sort of way. Like morning dew on a bare branch. Like seepage from a rusty tap. Like muddy water in the crack of a boulder.
And, like a wet sheet with fever.
© Farzana Versey