A Sticky Situation


This is a piece I wrote this semester that I thought was really funny. You might hate it — I don’t care, I’ll still think it’s funny.

by Scout Petersen

During my first-period physics class at Westside High School, my nostrils started to tingle. I made a few clockwise circles with my nose, hoping that’d shake the feeling. After a couple sniffles, I thought I was fine until a sneeze mustered in the back of my nose. Before I could sanitarily catch the blow with my inner elbow, I shot the biggest snot rocket of my life onto the leather jacket of Connor Jones.

Baffled with fear, I deemed it a miracle the nasal fluid I expelled had barely missed landing directly on his neck. I hadn’t dared to question the fact that there was no reaction to the sticky moisture. My eyes darted an absurd amount of times from the snot covered jacket to my peers, mortified by the spectacle it could create. Yet, unbelievably, not a single head was turned my direction.

I’d mentally prepared for a lot of scenarios in my life, but a nasal excrement fiasco involving the hottest guy in my grade never occurred in any of my fictional daydreams. Sure, I’d imagined he’d become my lab partner, and at first, we’d just be friends, nothing too serious. We’d start saying hi to each other during passing period, then sitting together at lunch. He’d eventually build up the courage to steal a kiss in the parking lot near the baseball field, which everyone knows is the most romantic make-out spot, and finally senior year we’d unanimously become prom king and queen. Of course, we would have to break up and go to separate colleges, he at Stanford on a soccer scholarship and me on a full ride to NYU, only to be reunited years later on an accidental run-in at a dim lit book store. But I felt all our plans wash away as I looked the mucus dart straight in the eye.

Class today covered Isaac Newton’s lifetime of discoveries and theories. Our teacher, Ms. Patterson, was extremely passionate about her career as a high school physics teacher. Her excitement was almost unbearable for how early in the morning it was. Each sentence she spewed was followed by a lipstick smudged smile and dramatically raised eyebrow. It honestly made me nauseous, but I did my best to give her a break. She held the power of assigning lab partners, and if I wanted the course of my life to remain intact, I needed to stay on her good side. If answering a few questions over these first few weeks meant we’d be all buddy-buddy when it came time for lab partner choosing, I was here for it.

The snot slowly started to slide and terror shot through my heart. I remembered the protocol for other embarrassing bodily functions. If you had to go # 2 you’d walk to the third-floor bathroom stalls, the most deserted of restrooms. You’d cough loudly to disguise the sound. We’d all known what was really happening the second that door swung open, but out of courtesy, we’d pretend to be oblivious. This was the exception, not the rule. That kind of behavior only flew because it was one of those, when you gotta go, you gotta go moments. I remembered that last month Matthew Nguyen’s voice cracked during his presentation on object displacement, and not a single person teased him mercilessly. Everyone was so forgiving and absent-minded, probably because the male late bloomers knew they’d someday be the voice behind the crack, or the toot just that seemed to slip out. What the hell was I supposed to do with the caterpillar-sized snot I’d birthed, not only existing but residing on the love of my life? There was no protocol.

I contemplated grabbing my bag and promptly transferring high schools, never to be seen again, but how could Connor and I be the Westside it couple if we went to different schools? Also, Ms. Patterson was a stickler about leaving in the middle of her class, I’d surely not be able to keep a secret like this to myself when prompted with, “now what could possibly be more important than Newton’s laws of motion?” My face would flush red, and I’d blurt out something worse, like, “I just got my period!” But then there was the issue of maintaining our student teacher friendship. She was a determinant factor in my life plan. Each scenario felt worse than the next.

I pondered the idea of casually swiping my right sleeve along his back, but what would I say? “Oh sorry, you had a bug on you!” He would check his back and recognize the familiar remnants of what we both very well knew was not a bug. My mom always told me that first impressions are everything, and mine needed to be perfect with Connor. I imaged he would let out an abrupt yet sexy shriek. Heads would turn, and shame would be cast. From that moment forward, I would forever be known as the snot girl. Snotty McGee. The Boogie Monster. They’d wag their index fingers at me and shout, Mucus-Producus! Give snot a shot would be my slogan when I ran for student council. Connor would be forced to ask me to homecoming with a sign that’d read, I want to boogie with you! Or worse, he’d never speak to me in the first place after I defiled his jacket. He’d know I lied about the ‘bug’, and that’s no way to start our relationship. I’d be left a liar with booger juice smeared on her sleeve, and there’d still be the issue of where to wipe it.

I shook my head and literally turned to face my problems; meanwhile, Connor reached to scratch his right shoulder. Full of trepidation, I leaned forward. Little did he know that within the space of his two shoulders, he contained the power to wholeheartedly destroy not only me but our entire future.

“Is everything alright back there?” My teacher called out.

When I looked up, Ms. Patterson was glaring toward my back-corner seat. I hadn’t even noticed, but I’d managed to stand up entirely out of my seat. I stiffened my entire body in embarrassment and slammed my butt back down on the plastic chair. I attempted to relieve the tension by crossing my legs and allowing my shoulders to droop. I raised her a thumbs up and said, “just really passionate about your lecture, but back to you Ms. P!” And the thumb turned into a finger gun.

Usually, I’m all for the attention, I mean any publicity is good publicity, but I desperately needed to stop drawing the eyes of my peers toward my crime scene. With my elbows propped up on the table and my eyes focused on the notes I hadn’t taken, I was confident that I could manage to blend in for the rest of the class period.

 “Yes! That’s the spirit we need!” Ms. Patterson took the compliment and continued with her PowerPoint that displayed the laws of motion. “Alright, so Newton’s first law states that an object remains at rest or continues at a constant velocity unless acted upon by an external force. This means that the only way to move or stop something from moving is to have an outside force at play.”

To my right, I felt theatre girl Jessica Fields’ eyes burning a hole through the side of my skull. I was fully aware that saying, “and back to you Ms. P,” was super lame, and apparently so did she. So long as she didn’t notice the snot entity on Connor, I didn’t mind her disapproving glare. Sitting at her feet was the same green backpack she’d had since middle school. I’d always thought it was downright hideous, but now I was incredibly envious. Once I became booger girl, I would have to kiss snot-like colors goodbye. Green or any resembling colors would have no choice but to be stripped from my wardrobe. And damnit, my mom had just bought me a hunter green sweater last week that she said made my eyes pop. It wasn’t easy to find a color that flattered my olive skin tone and hazel eyes, but the sweater’s mossy green shade really did the trick. Yet, this wasn’t up for debate. Mustards, greens, and creams would be the first to go. Oranges, however, were still up in the air, but that was beside the point. Any shades that reminded my peers of Connor’s tainted leather jacket would be promptly ripped out of my closet after school and thrown into a box for my mom to give to Goodwill, at a later date of her choosing.

“Newton’s second law is simply put as Force = mass x acceleration.”

The only force that concerned me was how the mass in my nose accelerated enough to projectile such an incredible stretch of distance. That must have been the most powerful sneeze in the history of the world. I wondered if there was a Guinness book record for the most forceful sneezes? Would Connor think it was hot that I held a world record? I shook my head.

The digital clock flashed 9:50 in bright red letters, like an emergency warning for my soon demise. I had ten minutes to figure out a plan of attack before Connor stood up and, no doubt, someone noticed the slimy green worm crawling down his spine in passing period. It wouldn’t be difficult to determine the culprit. We’d sat in the same seats for the entirety of the semester. I alone had a direct trajectory to his broad, muscular, and leathery back.

Eventually, I’d have no other option but to hide out in my mom’s basement or a nearby forest for a few years. It’d be full blown hibernation. People would spread rumors that I was pregnant or in jail, but that was a price I’d be willing to pay. I’d only see my extended family and friends for the major holidays, but they’d understand. I would be escaping to a snot-less safe haven. Who could argue with that when they’d learned I held the world record for the most powerful sneeze?

“Newton’s third law tells us that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Basically, when something is pushed, it’s pushed back with equal force. This is the maintaining of equilibrium.”

My eyes snapped to the smart board. Ms. Patterson was an absolute genius. How had I not see it before? This was karma for fifteen years of bad decisions. I remembered tormenting Jessica Fields for three years about the time she’d peed her pants on the twisty slide in first grade, but come on, she’d peed her pants! No, I desperately needed her forgiveness to balance the cosmos. A formal letter of apology would have to suffice. I’d explain my sincerest condolences to the reputation I’d ruined, and end the message by telling her how cute I thought her backpack was. Alas, upon swearing to Sir Isaac Newton that I’d right my wrongs, the booger actually crawled an inch or two down Connor’s spine.

It was blasphemy. Instant karma if you will. The mere promise of my salvation dragged the snot toward the linoleum floor. If my snot rocket managed to leave his jacket, it’s possible I could plead not guilty in the case of who did it. I needed this. Connor and I needed this.

I started to fill with hope. Hope for a life undefined by my accidental bodily function. Right then and there I promised, or rather, begged Newton for the chance to do everything in my power to maintain the balance of the universe. I also promised him I’d wear my green sweater tomorrow as a way of showing my thanks. He’d know I meant. With the fall of my booger, meant the falling of everything else into place.

“Okay class, we’re finally at the point of the semester that we’ll begin laboratory experiments. I’ll call out the names of your partners. Please introduce yourself if you don’t already know each other. This will be your partner for the remainder of the semester.”

I listened impatiently as she crept down the alphabet until she paired my name next to Connor Jones. I let the sound of our names coupled together ring between my ears. It felt like Christmas morning.

Connor looked over his left shoulder and flashed me a dimply smile. With drool in my mouth, I reached out, longing to touch his hair. Thankfully he mistook my extended palm for me introducing myself. He grabbed my hand and said, “Hey, I’m Connor.” The moment was everything I’d hoped it’d be, and more. I was already excited about the journal entry I’d write about Connor’s sad eyes pining for my love. This was the moment we’d tell at our wedding, about how he knew I was the one, and I him. A wholesome high school sweetheart tale, that was until Jessica Fields ruined my entire life.

She squinted with her beady eyes, full of hate and vengeance for the teasing of her playground puddle incident, and sneered, “Hey Connor, what’s that on your jacket?”

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