One of my biggest fears is sneezing in someone else’s face, that the involuntary, common action will override my self-control and spray me-slime all over someone else. Specifically their face. Is there anything more disgusting than the thought of being sneezed on by someone else in the face? The only thing as intimately disgusting is burping into someone’s mouth as you kiss—or even exchanging a little spit up. While someone, somewhere, likely enjoys this lewd wet act, I am confident that most people would prefer not to be showered in mucus.
One time I did that, though: I sneezed on a girl’s face. That’s why I am so scared of the thought because I experienced it and it was like magically soiling some else’s pants. It’s not cool. The girl was Mandy Wakamatsu. We were both in the sixth grade, in Yongsan, Korea, where both of our army father’s were stationed. We were not in the same homeroom class: I was with Ms. Lutz, the beautifully outdoorsy curly haired twentysomething that I wished to take on a date to see a horror film but never got to, and Mandy was in Mr. White’s class.
Mr. White was a mid-forties African American man whose “thing” was refusing to tell anyone his age. Kids would pester him, nagging with guesses regarding his timeline. He refused. He always wore white button ups and black pants and was remarkably dapper despite this otherwise boring fashion choice. I think he was gay, too: he had the vocal affectation of Little Richard paired with the charisma of a Southern Baptist preacher. He was quite the antithetical phenomena: Mr. White, who was black and gay in the nineties, lived in Korea on a military installation.
Mandy and I had the same math class with Mr. White. He ran his classroom like a childish salon, where kids sat at tables instead of desks and were permitted to visit with each other after his lesson. You could share homework or just talk, playing desktop games to pass the time. His class was before the sixth graders broke for lunch so it was quite laissez faire. The sixth graders were also the “end” of elementary school, before graduating to the hybrid middle school/high school: we had a lot of slack.
I never sat with Mandy nor was I good friends with her: she was a very angelic pale redhead from Hawaii. She was Mormon and had an entourage of fellow Mormons, all of which looked as if they were ready to perform “We Are The World”: every nationality was included. They were always so happy. They sang songs they made up. They didn’t drink Coca-Cola. They were always holding hands and having sleepovers and I was never invited because I was not Mormon nor was I female.
Still, I tried to get “in” with them. Beyond the Mormon inclusivity, I was obsessed with Mandy’s last name, Wakamatsu. It sounded like a weapon or a curse only old Korean women could say. Wakamatsu: Wa—the loose double-U presenting a long A; Ka, a stronger, more feminine K sound, the same blunt K that ends sexy words like “fuck,” which presents a slightly shaved down long A from the Wa; Mat, a girlish homonym for the popular apple sauce; and Su, the wonderfully exotic—not to mention backhandedly Eastern—clarifying point. Wakamatsu. I still say that name to myself (Mandy Wakamatsu.) when my mind is idling, while exercising or distracted while masturbating. Wakamatsu is my lexical Jessica Rabbit: sexy, confusing, and unforgettable. I don’t know if I’m remembering the spelling correctly but I remember the sound of it so well.
That name drew me to her. She had bright blue sparkly eyes, too. She was a doll-girl, the type who wasn’t super pretty but the type parents would look at and say “She’s sweet.” meaning “She doesn’t know she’s pretty.” It also didn’t help that she wore very thin pastel t-shirts, covered in animals, paired with plain white jeans. She was remarkably unremarkable.
In one of Mr. White’s post-class visit time, I felt particularly bold and decided to talk to Mandy: I was going to really try to get in with her. I approached her table where she was with her sidekick, Christine, a thin brunette who was known for not being Mandy but also Mormon. She was so forgettable that I don’t even think her name was Christine. I can’t be sure what her name was.
The two were singing a song they made up called “Cocktails” set to the theme of Duck Tales. It made me think of fruit cocktails—specifically the cherries—but also had an odd, uncomfortable ring to it. “Cocktails,” they’d chirp. “A-wooo-hooo!” That’s all they sang. They sang it over and over and over again. Mr. White bellowed for them to hush but they refused.
I walked up to their table. This was in my “bad boy” Christian from Clueless phase, when I hung out with pre-lesbians who dressed like The Craft and smoked cigarettes despite my campaigns for their health. My contribution to the group was convincing everyone to tell their parents that Cruel Intentions was a horror movie and that we should be able to see it. Living in a pre-Internet city overseas, there were no movie trailers: they believed what we told them. We got the most aloof mom in the group—Misty’s mom, this frizzled bleach blonde West Virginian—to take us. She called every mom after the movie and alerted them that it was a sex movie. We kids played dumb, citing confusion, that we must have mistook Cruel Intentions with something else we saw in Teen People.
I lean into the table, probably wearing my older brothers pants which I wore because they were so oversized since he was oversized and my parents were too cheap to pay for Jncos. They were my low budget solution. “What’s up?” I asked them. I think one of them answered “Math.” which I ignored. They mostly blinked and continued singing “Cocktails.” I turned to Mandy, to ask her something. It may have been about math, it may have been about lunch: I do not remember.
She stares at me. She has no response. She smiles, this fake bitchy smile that is not real because she doesn’t actually know how to be bitchy: she’s Mormon. She just stares. Our eyes are locked, me leaning onto her white table and staring at her. Our faces are about two feet apart.
My face gets really itchy, somehow. I stare back at Mandy, waiting. There is this mounting fuzz building in my nose. It feels like someone is unlocking velcro inside of my face or like you just did one backflip too many underwater. Then there is a snap, a whipping of my head, a mild spasming of my entire body while standing still, a full body orgasm of tension being broken: I sneezed—and it went all over Mandy’s face, even into her open mouth.
She sat there. The table hushed from “Cocktails” and looked at me and then to Mandy. Her face glistened under a layer of nose ejaculate. My slime bubbled and dripped from her cheeks. Her eyes were closed and her neon red bangs were now matted to her forehead. We had performed an inadvertent reenactment of that sneeze scene from Jurassic Park, I the dinosaur and she that blonde whiney girl.
I think Mandy cried. I blacked out in an apology, that I didn’t know what happened. She and her friends blamed me for visiting their table just to sneeze in / on her face. Mr. White gave us tissues and I tried to help wipe my snot from her face but Christine slapped me away. Everyone was grossed out. It was a situation that no one wanted to witness nor did anyone want to experience but, unfortunately, Mandy and I were the parties obligated to see how being sneezed on is really like.
It’s a pretty unforgettable experience, I must say. The act maybe empowered me later in life to control sneezes as to prevent and nasal spray—or to channel it toward an annoying brother at the right time. Controlling how and when I sneeze has become a talent. But, I would never use it for harm: I would never sneeze on anyone ever again and I promise you that sneezing on someone else is one of the strangest experiences I know of. It’s like a secret you never wanted anyone to hear was broadcast miles in every direction. I do not recommend you sneeze on anyone’s face.
Mandy and I didn’t talk after that. I apologized a few more times, in subsequent math classes, but her clique had me excommunicated. I tracked her down on Facebook at one point and her hair is slightly less red, more of a strawberry blonde. I wonder if she remembers getting sneezed on, in the face? How could she forget that? If I was surprised by a spray of someone else’s snot in my mouth, I would never forget them.