by Katie McCoach

Last night I had a dream.


In it my ears were clogged. I couldn't find any q-tips. Wax, water, and stuffing filled them so I could barely hear and barely think. I pushed my fingers against my ears and the train passing by became just a shudder of rhythm over the tracks; the sound was out. I move my fingers away, and the sound grows. I know I hear everything the same, but they are still clogged, I need to get the buildup out.


I search again for q-tips.

 There has to be one, there has to be.


Yes. Found one. Okay, let's make this worth it.


I push the cotton tip into my ear, swirl it around smoothly; trace the inner lobe. I push further, circles getting tighter. Nothing happens. When I finish the only proof is a yellow tip, but I don't believe it; my ear is still yelling at me.


I try again, this time with the other ear reaching as deep as the swab will let me. I hear a pop and suddenly my ear is erupting. It is a volcano, waxes in yellow and orange pour from my lobe, drenching my neck, my shirt, flowing faster than any bloody nose I've ever seen. The wax runs like liquid, and I begin to panic. My ear feels better, but now I am leaking.


It stops.

The aftermath is frightening. I stare at the painted q-tip in my fingers and smile at the grotesqueness of it all.  


I wake up. There is a throbbing at my lobe and I realize I was only dreaming. I feel small. My ears have been loaded like a baked potato for two days now. I know my only sensible cure is a trip on a plane but that is not a possibility. My next flight is not for another three weeks. I cannot wait until then.


Stumbling to my bathroom frantically, I search for q-tips. There are none. Oh right, I was supposed to buy some yesterday.

There has to be one, at least one. There has to be.


I dig inside my drawer, and miraculously I spot the cotton swab. I stare at it for a while, as if I have discovered something Holy, and then after a few moments, I flip it around and decide to go for it. I push the cotton cloud into my ear, desperate to clear the blockage that tortures me. I slip the swab further and further, deeper, and deeper. I swirl it tightly and I wait for the pop that leaks free.