It starts in an indescribable place somewhere that feels like it is both behind your eyes and behind the bridge of your nose. You squint, and cringe your nose, trying to squeeze the sensation away. When that doesn’t work, you try the opposite tactic, widening your eyes and trying to stretch out your face as if attempting to give the feeling an escape route.
But, inevitably, despite the valiant efforts on your part that make you look a little deranged, it only gets worse.
The pin-pricks behind your eyes get stronger and stronger, making your eyes water. The tickle in your nose leaves you gasping for air, as if the swish of an inhale might save you. That’s when you know that you’ve lost the battle. That’s when you know that you’ve passed the point of no return. That’s when you know it’s coming.
Hopefully by this point you’ve managed to turn away from whomever you are talking to.
You sneeze and make a tremendous sound as you forcibly spray everything in front of you. Before you even have time to recover, a second, a follow-up, comes around, interrupting the polite ‘Bless you!’ from your neighbour, and making them have to awkwardly repeat themselves.
You reach into your pocket, desperately rummaging for a tissue that might address the remnant watery drop dangling off the tip of your nose.
Alas! No tissue! What are you to do?
With your back still turned towards your companion, you are forced to reach back to your childhood habits and use the only thing available to you: your sleeve!