When I was very small, I loved to eat my boogers.
I didn’t stop at a normal age.
I just kept going.
I loved them.
I became a booger connoisseur.
I knew exactly the type of booger delicacy I needed to be satisfied: crispy on the outside, thick and meaty in the middle, salted just so.
They were delicious.
And I probably would have gone on eating my boogers happily until someone caught me, or until I became interested in boys, if Dean Karlen hadn’t ruined it for me.
I probably had at least one or two good booger eating years left but at seven: Dean Karlen destroyed my favorite pastime forever.
I was at the Karlen’s house one day, after a Friday night sleepover with my best friend at the time: Terri.
Terri was the oldest Karlen and their were several little Karlens besides her: Kirk, Kim, and of course, baby Dean.
Terri, Kirk and Kim were long past booger eating for all I knew… I never saw them delve into the realms of the dark cavern but then again… I was very secretive about picking myself. I often hid in the playhouse in our backyard, or a closet behind my dad’s coats. I rarely asked someone to join me unless I was absolutely sure I had seen a small finger go up a small nose. So maybe… they were secretly picking their boogers and I just didn’t know about it. But at the age of seven: I didn’t make that connection.
Somehow I just believed: that they had moved on.
But Dean… the baby… a tiny little blue eyed man… I felt was still young enough to be down for some booger picking activities and so, I grabbed his hand, and dragged him out of the family room, past the kitchen, down the hallway to the formal sitting room, where we threw ourselves onto the nice couch and where I believed we would secretly sit and enjoy a booger eating extravaganza together: Picking away… enjoying our salty little treats… giggling conspiratorially like a couple of stupid idiots until we had to go back and join the group.
But… that didn’t happen.
Dean bounced up and down on the couch a few times, reached down and rubbed his hands on it’s edge, and then slapped me hard on the top of my head before he ran back off down the hallway to find Kirk or Kim or someone else to play with.
I sat quietly slumped on the couch… upset at first that I had lost my little playmate and would now have to eat my boogers alone but soon I settled in and began my routine.
I was deep in thought and about three boogers in, when I decided to take a pause and rest.
I placed my small hands by my side and relaxed into the couch as I kicked my feet against the edge.
“Terri!” I heard Mrs. Karlen yell. “You kids better not be in the sitting room! You better not be on my good couch!”
My eyes grew big.
I loved Mr. and Mrs. Karlen as if they were my own parents and I didn’t want to anger them in any way.
I held my breath as I silently slid off the couch, and curled up into a small ball on the floor, hoping I wouldn’t be seen and now anxious for Terri to come back from wherever she was and find me.
I lay there for a moment… praying that I wouldn’t be punished… that I wouldn’t be sent home… when I noticed a small perfect booger stuck to the side of my index finger.
It was lovely in color and shape, golden really like a perfect raisin, and I was thankful that I had one more good one to eat and enjoy as I waited in my self-imposed prison on the tri-color shag carpet.
I rolled it around on the tip of my finger: massaging it into a perfect booger ball… before I popped it into my mouth without hesitation.
I chewed that booger with glee…
I waited for the familiar taste I so loved…
The enjoyable sensation of the booger-licious flavor I had come to cherish…
But as I mulled the small but powerful bouquet of taste on the surface of my tongue I realized I had made a horrible error in judgement: this booger was foreign.
This booger was not mine.
I had eating someone else’s booger.
The taste was odd and metallic.
The smell similar to that odd smell of new puppy breath and it piped up the back of my throat and into the back of my nose.
For a moment… I thought I was going to puke: I couldn’t get that booger out of my mouth fast enough.
I spit it onto the floor and actually wiped my tongue across the shag carpet several times trying to remove every remanant of the foreign matter from my mouth but even today… I can still taste that thing.
I lay there… trying not to gag… trying not to puke… and I probably would have laid there all day praying that I would recover, if Dean Karlen hadn’t ran back into the room at that very moment, picked his nose right in front of me, and wiped his tiny booger laden finger on the edge of the couch before running away.
I raised my head up as my mouth fell agape.
There, on the length of the couch, I could now see Dean Karlen’s booger minefield that he had been planting for God knows how many months of time.
Little mummified pieces of booger clinging to each micro-fiber of the couch and of course… the newest patch full of juicy baby booger specimens where the one I just ate had obviously come from.
I jumped up and ran away from that couch as if I had just witnessed a bloody accident or a brutal murder.
I no longer cared where my best friend was, where any of the little Karlens now were, or if I would be punished.
I ran out the side door, grabbed my pink Schwinn banana seat bike… and pedaled as fast as I could for home.
I wanted Dean Karlen’s boogers far behind me.
I wanted that memory to be erased forever from my brain.
But my bad booger behavior had been broken for eternity in that one moment.
And though forty-one years of time has now passed me by… the taste and the memory of that rotten foreign baby booger sticks forever in my sensory memory and mind… like the day it stuck to the edge of that couch.