illustration of a bloody nose trailing blood into an empty soda can

When I was in the fourth grade, my nose started bleeding and I had to go to the nurse’s office. It was wintertime in Chicago. The air was dry and I was prone to the occasional nose bleed.

In the nurse’s office, I was soaking up tissues upon tissues with bright, red blood. I was mildly alarmed, but I liked our nurse enough and was comforted by her presence. Her name was Paula. Her dry humor made me laugh. She was also the mother of the class clown.

We tried all the medical and personal home remedies Paula could think of: a small wad of tissue under my upper lip, an ice pack on the nape of my neck…even laying me on my back, which caused me to swallow more blood than I ever cared for. Eventually, we sat me back up with yet another fresh wad of tissue pressed against my gushing nose.

After almost an hour of sitting in her office, Paula held up a soda* can and, in her thick Chicago accent, said, “Look. The most you’re gonna bleed is about as much as this soda can.” Her reassurance was a bit alarming, but in a way, put me at ease. At least then I knew the bleeding was going to stop at some point, just not until I bled enough to fill a 12 ounce soda can. There was an end in sight. Knowing it helped me feel a little bit better.

My nose finally let up a half an hour later. Paula sat with me through it all.

*Note: I went back and forth on “pop” versus “soda”. I grew up in Chicago saying “pop” but since I’ve lived in different areas and have had the argument too many times to count, I decided to use the term I currently adopt in my everyday speech: soda.