Wajeehah Aayeshah

Wajeehah Aayeshah is a Muslim, female, brown, academic geek who loves collecting stories. She is interested in combining history, personal experiences, and contemporary socio-cultural context to create empathetic narratives.  She is a Lecturer at the University of Melbourne, designing curriculum and investigating kindness in higher education. She likes writing short stories, creative essays, bad poetry, and developing games with a dark sense of humour.


The girl who sat in a corner and sneezed

‘Buzz, buzz.’ I wake up due to the buzzing of my phone. It’s a text from Fatemah. She wants to know if I am still up for her Garden sculpture exhibition at the Heide.

‘It’s not even 7.00 Fati.’ I groan. 

Ignoring her message, I try to get back to sleep. It is useless. My mind knows I am up and wants me to clear up the nasal passage. I try to find FES saline nasal spray. It ought to be somewhere on my bed. I can’t find it. Grumbling, I get out of my bed and go to lounge to grab another bottle from meds drawer. I have only done one nostril when my phone starts to ring. Keeping the spray in my hand, I rush to receive it. It’s my Kiwi partner calling from a different time-zone. He wants to know how bad the bleeding was. 

‘What bleeding?’ I ask in a groggy voice. 

Turns out that at some point at night, I had sent him a picture of my nosebleed. I have no memory of this action.  Putting him on speaker phone, I check my WhatsApp. The picture shows a considerably higher amount of blood on three tissue papers. I try to look for the tissues for physical evidence. I find two with dried blood on them. Half listening to his concerned voice, I try to locate the third one. 

‘Yeowwww!’ I find the FES nasal spray. It is right under my foot.

‘What is it? What’s wrong?’ Riz can hear the pain in my voice. 

‘Is your head hurting? Should I call someone to get you an ambulance?’ he is frantic.   

‘No, no. I just stepped on something.’ Trying to calm him down, I pick up the bottle.

‘What about the nosebleed? How bad is it?’ 

‘It’s okay. Relax. I don’t even remember sending you this bloody picture.’ I take a pause to congratulate myself on my brilliant display of wit.

‘Did you see what I just did there? Bloody picture…’ I put the spray in my other nostril.

‘Zoya, would you stop being carefree about it?’  I can hear a distinct ‘beep beep’ tone of someone else calling me.

‘It’s just a nosebleed. Due to dry nose.’ 

‘Just go see your GP. Please. Just do it,’ he is literally pleading.

‘OK. OK. I will.’ 

The next 5 minutes are spent me convincing him I will get an appointment, while blowing my nose. He is still unconvinced, but we end the conversation and hang up. 

‘Buzz buzz’. It’s Fatemah again. 

‘Zoya, pick up.’ 

I call her back. She wants to make slight modification to our plans. She has added my name to the list of volunteers who would give visitors a tour of the exhibition.  I am to reach the Heide Museum of Modern Art a couple of hours earlier to get a debrief. I am the ‘bestest’ person in the whole world. I say ‘OK’.  Hanging up on her, I blow on my nose again. There is blood.

The doctor wants me to get another biopsy done. I tell her I had one done 3 months ago. This isn’t my regular doctor. After an hour of heavy nosebleed, I have Uber-ed into an emergency ward. My neck has started to cramp. I have been stretching it for too long now, holding a tissue trying to stop the blood flow.  The doctor has already ordered an emergency MRI. I had an MRI 5 months ago. When I tell her this, she looks at me in a way only emergency doctors look at you. It is a mixture of exasperated, kind, bored, and overworked look. She asks the name of my GP and tells the nurse to get my records transferred as a priority. She doesn’t use these words. I have been into hospitals far too many times now to decode them. 

‘Buzz buzz.’ It’s Fatemah. She wants to know where I am. All of sudden, I feel very tired and groggy. I tell her I am at Royal Melbourne Hospital emergency ward due to heavy nosebleed. I am fine and very sorry about not being at her exhibition. The nurse’s shadow is looming over me now. She wants to take me to MRI room. I tell Fatemeh this, put my phone on silent, chuck it in my bag, not wanting to deal with more phone calls, and follow the nurse. 

She gives me a gown to change and tells me to lie down on the table. I have to remove my ring. It gets chucked in my bag as well. I think of Riz. He doesn’t know where I am, but I am too sleepy now to tell him. I doze off before the MRI starts. 

I wake up in a room filled in a dim white light. I try to recall what it is called. It is the colour of my dad’s beard. Is Dad’s beard a good name for a colour? It can be a good name for a race horse. But I am against racing.  Why would I think of a race horse name?  I can’t move my body or my mouth. I try really hard. I can barely keep my eyes open. Is this how race horses feel when they are drugged? Someone is next to me. They are saying something, but I don’t understand. I doze off again.

I wake up again. This time, I can move my head. Fatemah is sitting on a chair next to me. Her head is covered, and she is reading a book. No, I correct myself. She is reciting a holy book. She senses my movement, looks up and smiles, finishing the line she was reading, closes the book. She says something to me, but I can’t hear her. I tell her that. But I can’t hear myself. I say it out loud. And again, and again. Nothing. It is super quiet. I can’t hear the ambience; light, air-conditioning unit, building, anything. My heart is starting to race. I am getting palpitations. I can feel my throat aching. I know I am yelling but I can’t hear it. A nurse rushes in. Fatemah is trying to calm me down. But she is making me more anxious. The nurse picks up a note pad, writes something on it with big letters shoves it into my face.

                                          TEMPORARY HEARING LOSS. 

I stop yelling. My throat a bit hoarse now. I look at the words for a few moments. Then look at the nurse. He is smiling at me. I look at the notepad again and look at Fatemah. She is staring at me with a smile as well, but her eyes have an alarmed look. As if, she is worried I might scream again. I point at ‘TEMPORARY’ and look at the nurse. He nods quickly, assuredly. He is very good looking. I feel my body slumping down. Something is trickling down my right cheek. I touch it. It’s a tear, I have been crying. Fatemah holds my right arm and shoulder tenderly, then gives me a soft, lop-sided hug. I hold on to her right arm, still unsure why I am crying. 

‘So avoid wool, carpet and plants as much as possible, FES spray needs to be taken before the NASONEX one. Clean your nose after FES and keep the NASONEX liquid inside, every morning and at night. You can use FES during the day as well.’ It is the same emergency doctor. 

All of my tests are clear. Just as before. There is nothing wrong with me. I only have allergies. I am told I can do Allergen immunotherapy or desensitisation test if I like. It is a bit expensive, but it lasts for 10 years. What about after 10 years? Will it get worse? I want to know. The doctor isn’t sure. It can’t really be predicted. One of those things. 

I have had my share of one of those things. I leave the hospital with Fatemah, thanking Medicare and BUPA for covering my bills. I can no longer visit or be forcibly recruited as a volunteer for her Sculpture Gardens exhibition. Too soon to be around so many plants. She waves it off as if it isn’t a big deal. I know it is. She has been designing her exhibition for the past two years. She drops me home, fills my fridge with stuff that I might need for the next ten days and lets me be. 

I make myself some tea, pick up a book and sit in my reading nook but fall asleep. 

 ‘Buzz buzz.’ It’s Riz. His plane has landed. He’ll be at the house in a couple of hours. I read the message, smile, and blow my nose. There is blood.