“My nose feels a little funny,” I announce to my friends late one night as I twiddle it cutely the way Samantha from Bewitched does. I turn slowly to them, almost like a mechanical doll, and as I say “Sometimes my nose just bleeds for no reason at all”, their faces are painted with horror.
Blood is pouring out of my nose and for a split second, they are convinced that I did it on purpose, summoning the downpour like some sort of She-Devil.
All my life, I’ve suffered from nosebleeds. It’s just one of the many ways in which my body throws me into a deep spiral of shame. If it’s not clammy hands, a red face or a very wet upper lip, my own blood decides to spout out my nose like a boiling kettle to alert the people that I’m here and why yes, I am bleeding profusely.
I can remember my first nosebleed ever so clearly. I was eight years of age and I had just gotten my ears pierced in the chemist. A red letter day for any young girl, soon to be a very red nosed day. I was cocky with my bedazzled lobes and I took to the garden, skipping like a madwoman and pretending I was in a video for a Kylie Minogue song. All of sudden, beside our ramshackle greenhouse, the iron cast handle of an unused and old-fashioned lawnmower fell down and cracked my nose. The blood starting pumping immediately, splatting over every second of ear-pierced glory, the rusty taste building up at the back of my throat and a deep heat penetrating my nostrils, dribbling down my chin and drip-dropping onto my shoes. This was my first nosebleed, thanks to a lawnmower, and it was not to be my last.
Nosebleeds are often associated with cocaine, punch ups, and now, thanks to Eleven in Stranger Things, secret government experiments. Just to clear up any rumours, my nose beats to its own drums and since 1995, it’s been bleeding its own path all by itself. No coke, no brawls and no invasive government procedures… that I know of.
Landmark bleeds include but are not limited to; on the roadside of the Stillorgan dual-carriageway, where I bled approximately a pint of blood into my scarf, passed out a little and then drove back home; in a hotel bar in Dingle and then later in a tiny bathroom cubicle in Dingle, where my doctor friend insisted on holding a bag of ice against my forehead and the back of my neck to stop the bleeding. We did this over the bloodied toilet bowl, with ice melting down my back and face, as the women queuing for the other cubicles pretend not to see me. When I could, I gurgled “THIS ISN’T FROM COKE, IT HAPPENS ALL THE TIME”.
There is no medical explanation for my nosebleeds but my sister suffers from them too so we’ve concluded that our noses can predict a change in the weather. Whether it’s a cold snap or an Indian Summer, our beaks will let you know. Granted, the weather may already be cold or warm so it’s about as useful as Karen’s weather predicting tits in Mean Girls but it’s our special gift. Instead of feeling it in our waters, we feel it in our nostrils.
As I’ve sat with tampons and scrunched tissues shoved up my nose over the years, I’ve tried to pinpoint precisely what causes the bleeding. Other than the weather, all I’ve got is panic, embarrassment or anxiety. If I get a rush of blood to the face, for either of the previous reasons, maybe my veins can’t control the surge and they need to find an exit point. Luckily, it’s my nose that my veins chose and not my eyes. That would take my eye stigmatism to religious levels that even I’m not ready for.
It’s pretty easy to read me because the colour of my face or the temperature of my hands will easily tell you which way I’m feeling. You’ve heard of the phrase ‘Cold hands, warm heart’? Well, I’m the opposite. Clammy hands, bitterly cold heart. ‘A heart so cold, she’d make a grown man cry,’ she tweeted one night, laughing to herself, knowing that no one would ever believe that.
I could have been the greatest liar in the world but that sudden rush of blood and heat to, or from, my face and hands gives the whole game away. I always feared the ‘Peace be with you’ bit in Mass, only adding to the clamminess of my claws. I’d spend the first half of Mass with my hands held out, fingers spread, so there’d be no pent up heat but when the priest offered out the drumroll of ‘you may now offer each other the sign of peace’, no matter how many times I patted my palms on my jeans, they would still be clammy. Either way, this is me. Clammy hands, cold heart, bloody nose, overactive circulation. Throw in hot-headed and you have the full climate of my body.
There are some people in the world who have never had a nosebleed and I pity them. To feel that sudden surge of heat coming from your snout, accompanied with that taste of iron that has you craving a proper steak because, well, medically, you probably need about three, is a unique thing. There is something biblical about having an uncontrollable bloody nose and there’s great power in inciting fear in your friends as you calmly sit with blood trailing down your face. If breathing and speaking weren’t big enough hints, it’s a liquid reminder that you’re very much alive.