STORIES : Mental Block:

It had been a wonderful evening, almost the perfect date, but now Mike was about to ruin everything. He shuddered, and panic filled his heart. There was a familiar tickle at the back of his nose, a desperate urge to sneeze. How unfair! Their date had been going so well; he and Laura had spent several happy hours getting to know each other. This was their third date. The previous two had been great. Nothing had spoilt them.

Unfortunately, this time Mike was going to sneeze and ruin everything.

“Get a grip, man! what's she going to do, leave you because you sneezed?” a voice in his head spoke up. “Jesus Christ, that's absurd! Everybody sneezes. Look how many times Laura sneezed tonight alone.”

Good point, thought Mike. Laura had sneezed quite a few times herself - not just on this date, but on the other two as well. He was well aware of that. In fact, he took great pleasure in watching discreetly every time she sneezed. She often sneezed in multiples, and he adored the way she tried to stifle them, invariably failing to capture more than the first one or two.

The sad thing was, he had seen her sneeze a great many times, but she hadn't seen him sneeze, not even once. Mike wanted to change that now; he wanted to give into the insurmountable burning urge and just let loose until he was done. This was his chance…

Yet Mike knew full well that Laura would never enjoy seeing him sneeze. She didn't share his fetish, nor did she have any idea that he even had such a bizarre fetish. To his mind, in all likelihood, she would be repulsed if she ever found out. And so, it was probably better that she never knew.

The tickle in his nose refused to go away. His sinuses were on fire and his heart rate accelerated; the fear intensified along with the tickle. Mike was terrified at the very thought of sneezing. He hadn’t sneezed in over ten years, and yet now, it looked like it would finally happen. His breathing hitched. His eyes squeezed tightly shut. His lips parted, and he cupped both hands over his face. This was unbearable! As frightened as he was, he found himself almost willing the sneeze to come along.

"Huh...hih-huh...Ah..."

Nothing.

The urge to sneeze had left him. He simply couldn’t do it – unless he was alone and there was no one else to watch him. It was as if he had a mental block. However badly he might want to sneeze, he simply wasn’t able to. Right now, sat in this restaurant, opposite the girl he had fallen in love with, there was no way he’d ever be able to do it.

Laura brushed a hand through her long, curly blond hair and appeared not to have noticed anything unusual. Mike sighed. In a perverse way he wished he could sneeze in front of her, just to finally see what her reaction might be.

And then he felt the itch return, this time stronger than ever. The old familiar panic was there too. All his previous thoughts were gone – he simply had to get away before the irritation became unbearable.

"Excuse me," he said, springing to his feet, hoping she wouldn't notice his ragged breathing. Without looking back, Mike bolted straight to the men's room, praying there was no one else inside.

***

Mike found himself alone at last in the men's room. It was a small space: only one urinal and a toilet stall next to it. It was good for one, maybe two people at the most, but no more, so Mike was assured that he wouldn't be interrupted. The lock on the bathroom door added that extra bit of security. His nose was seared now, his nostrils flaring, and the last thing Mike needed was for someone to come in here and witness him in the throes of a sneezing fit. Having the fan droning in the background, along with the florescent lights flickering, added that extra assurance that such noise would drown out the sound of his sneezes. He felt a great relief. No one waiting outside could possibly hear him.

He stood and waited, wondering if he was condemned to live his life this way forever, eternally condemned never to be able to sneeze in front of anyone else… especially if the ‘anyone else’ was a woman he was attracted to. Damn the mental block. It had been ten years since Mike McMillan had sneezed in front of anyone.

Alison Summers had been the last person to see Mike sneeze. He could remember it clearly - he'd been seventeen years of age at the time, and it had been in his English class.

How fitting that it should’ve been Alison Summers, he thought, suddenly recalling a long cherished memory. He’d had a crush on Alison ever since they first met back in the ninth grade. She was a sweet, attractive young girl who would often make time to talk with him. She had no idea how Mike really felt. If only he’d had the courage to tell her. Instead, he admired her from a distance, not just for her attractive figure, but for that other magic quality he adored – her sneezes.

Alison was always sneezing. Sometimes it was allergies, sometimes a cold, sometimes simply the dust in the air. There always seemed to be something that was bothering her nose, and Mike loved every minute of it. Her sneezes were fetchingly petite; delicate "huh-chufff!s" Mike thought perhaps she partially stifled them to make them so small. He didn’t mind of course; he loved that sound. He loved the look on her face as she prepared to succumb to another sneeze. Everything about her was adorable. He welcomed every distraction, desperate for anything that might ease the tedium of another day at school.

Mike himself had sneezed in class from time to time back then, but as he grew older it became less and less frequent. His mental block was already beginning to build.

It was on a warm spring day when he had last sneezed in Alison's presence. He had been sniffling intermittently, hoping dearly that no one would notice and that he would not bring attention to himself. His nose had been burning the entire period, until finally he hadn’t been able to stand it no longer. Minute upon minute, (what felt like) hour upon hour of nasal irritation had finally reached its culmination, and Mike had thrown his hands over his face as he’d sneezed fiercely three times:

"Huh-HACHAAA! HESCHHOOO! Huh-HISCHOOO!"

He’d blushed in embarrassment over what he’d done, and had somehow expected to hear the whole class burst out laughing. There had been a few snickers, but nothing malicious, and the teacher had kept up with his lecture, completely unresponsive.

Mike had looked over toward Alison, sure that she would be cringing in disgust, but she’d only smiled sweetly at him and had whispered: "Bless you!" as she’d offered him a tissue.

"Thanks," Mike had murmured, taking the tissue and blowing his nose.

It had been a wonderful experience, one that had filled Mike with tremendous elation and arousal. What he hadn't been aware of then was that his mental block would fully manifest shortly afterwards.

Mike looked at his reflection in the mirror above the sink, his short brown hair, hazel eyes, pale flesh, a well-groomed moustache and thin goatee partially obscuring his face. From his reflection, he could see his nostrils quivering. His eyes began to squeeze tightly shut and he sneezed harshly in the open air:

"HuhSHOOO!"

He sniffled, but the tickle wouldn't leave him. It lingered like a hot piece of metal, prickling his sinuses.

"Heh-HUSCHOO! EEESCHOOO!"

He sneezed twice more, but the tickle wouldn't go away. Even though he was alone, he began to feel awkward. “What if someone’s listening outside?” he thought, but then forced himself to dismiss such suspicions. His sneezes weren't that loud… were they?

"HURASCHOOOO!" he sneezed again, this time spraying a thin mist against the mirror in front of him. "HARASHOOO! HESCHOOO!"

He doubled over with the force of the sneezes. It felt so good to let it all out.

Mike sniffled wetly and grabbed one of the brown paper towels to blow his nose. His skin felt raw against the rugged material, but he still gave a hearty blow, emptying his sinuses and sneezing a final time into the towel: "HUH-SHOOO!"

At long last, he sensed the tickle was gone. Mike unlatched the lock and pushed the bathroom door open. There was no one waiting outside. He breathed a sigh of relief and hurried back to his table.

***

"Hey," Laura said timidly as Mike returned and sat back down opposite her. "Feeling any better?"

"A little," Mike murmured as he glanced in her direction.

He wondered what she would think and how she would feel if she had witnessed his sneezing fit in the bathroom. It had gotten rather messy toward the end, but perhaps she would forgive that. Perhaps she would only smile warmly and say, “bless you,” and hand him a tissue, just as Alison had done all those years ago.

He watched closely as Laura cupped her hands over her face, her eyes squeezing tightly shut, and sneezed three times. She tried to stifle the first one, but the second and third managed to escape noisily.

"Ha-kmph-huh! Ahhhhtissshhh! HahTISSSHHOOO!" She sniffled, blushing slightly. "Excuse me."

"Bless you," Mike said, feeling a little flushed himself. He loved saying this to Laura. It was a guilty pleasure of sorts, which seemed for him to make the experience complete - yet he had to be careful not to make her suspect that her sneezing was any big event for him. He struggled to hide the lust in his voice as he blessed her, but feared she might notice despite his best efforts.

"Thanks," Laura said with a nervous giggle.

Mike was suddenly convinced that Laura wouldn’t object if he were to sneeze in front of her. It was odd to realise it now, moments after he’d cleared the irritation in his sinuses - at least for the time being anyway. But the thought dominated his mind, and he wondered: if he were to sneeze in front of her (if he were capable of sneezing in front of her), would she react as Alison had reacted? Surely she had to have a sweet reaction to it, didn’t she? After all, she sneezed a lot herself, so it would be hypocrisy on her part to react negatively to his own sneezing fits.

Sheesh, why am I even worried about any of this?

Laura sneezed yet again, as if to reinforce this notion that sneezing wasn't a big deal at all and that everybody did it and she wouldn't care either way.

"Bless you," said Mike timidly.

"Thanks." Laura smiled at him, sniffed wetly, and blew her nose.

As he watched, Mike wondered how Laura would react if she knew what her sneezing did to him, of the blissful reverie that it put him in. “Give me a break”, a cynical, mocking voice spoke up in his head. “You can't even sneeze in front of her yourself, let alone tell her how her sneezes make you feel! Please, man, don't make me laugh!”

“Fuck you, asshole, I wasn't going to tell her, so shut up!” Mike answered back angrily, and then blushed, realising the futility of arguing with himself in such a manner.

"Mike ... Mike, are you okay?" Laura called, drawing his attention.

"Huh? Oh yeah, yeah, I'm fine, I'm sorry."

"Its okay," she said, sniffling. "You just went quiet there for a minute." She paused, as if in deep consideration, and then added, "You're not bothered by my sneezing, are you?"

"No, of course not. Why would I be?"

"I don't know." She sighed glumly. "It's just that...well, you see, my last boyfriend dumped me after two weeks of going out because he got fed up with my sneezing all the time, and -"

"You're last boyfriend was an asshole, and I'm not like that at all."

"Yeah, I know," she smiled at him. "You really are very sweet, you know that?" She reached over and kissed him on the forehead and then on the mouth.

“If only you knew how much I adore your sneezes,” he thought, a devilish grin forming over his face. “For the longest time I wanted a date with you; it was a miracle that I was able to muster up the courage even now. And when you said yes, I was so sure I was dreaming.”

"I just want to thank you for comforting me the other day when he dumped me," she said, "and you're right - if he can't deal with my sneezing, then the hell with him... Huh-hashiiiisshhh!" The sneeze must have caught her off guard, because this time she didn't even have enough time to cover up, and instead sprayed a clear mist over the surface of the table near her napkin. "Whew! Excuse me!" She was blushing a deep red now, very embarrassed.

"Bless you."

"Thanks." There was a long almost-silence as Laura blew her nose again. "Hey, wait a minute," she exclaimed at last. "Come to think of it, in all the time we've known each other, I don't think I've ever seen or heard you sneeze. Not even once."

“That's because I don't sneeze in front of people”, he wanted to say, but couldn't. So instead, he merely shrugged and answered, "I don't know what to say."

Mike briefly wondered, as he often did, why he even had the mental block to begin with. Surely no one had given him much shit for sneezing, so why should he be so afraid to sneeze around people?

No, that wasn’t entirely true, he decided. He thought back to seventh grade, a couple years before the mental block began to form.

There had been Clyde Slayer and his circle of friends (circle of oppressive tyrants was more like it), who had made life for Mike in Junior High a living hell, always taunting him, abusing him, and humiliating him. Among other things, those bastards had teased him maliciously because of how he used to sneeze so frequently. It wasn't his fault that he had had such bad allergies as a kid, but none of that seemed to matter to them. He had seen a few of them - including Clyde himself - sneeze from time to time. But of course, none of them had done it quite as regularly as he.

They weren't the only ones to have had a problem with Mike's sneezing either. Beth Jericho, who had sat in front of him in math class that year, had also scolded him for sneezing in her presence. Mike could never understand what her problem had been and why she was always so rude about it, but Beth had hated it when Mike sneezed. In fact, it sometimes seemed she’d hated everything he did. The sneezing had just been one more thing for her to complain about.

"God, Mike, can't you take something for those fucking allergies," she would whisper, harshly but softly enough that the teacher wouldn't hear.

She’d always shot angry looks at anyone who’d sneezed in that classroom, but she’d always been hardest on Mike for some reason. "Will you shut up? Damn it, Mike, you're allergies are such a pain in the ass!" she would often hiss.

It was bizarre to think that Mike had once had a crush on Beth. Of course it hadn’t lasted long – not once he realised how much of a bitch she really was.

From that moment on everything had changed. He’d become obsessed with seeing Beth sneeze, because he’d longed to be able to turn the tables on her. Mike had entertained thoughts of bringing a bag full of dust, pepper, and kitty litter into school one day and pouring it over Beth's head while she wasn't looking. That would surely have made her sneeze, but he could never bring himself to do it, could never muster up the courage. If Beth had chanced to even catch so much as a whiff of how Mike truly felt when he saw or heard females sneezing, his barely-then-begun life would have been over.

Funnily enough, he had finally got to witness Beth sneeze. It had been on the last day of school. It was a tiny, stifled sneeze – a near silent “Kppf!” sound that had passed her lips. Probably no one but himself had even noticed it. He’d wanted to say something, anything, to gain revenge for all the times she’d torn into him. He’d formed the words in his head, but when he’d opened his mouth, they simply refused to come out. He’d cursed silently under his breath, prepared to try again, but he’d known the moment had passed.

Mike McMillan was twenty-seven years of age now. Seventh grade seemed an eternity ago. He wondered why such events should still have an effect on his life now, almost fifteen years after they had taken place? He had no answer, and yet there was no escaping the fact, for to this day he still couldn't sneeze in front of anyone. While seventh grade might not have been entirely to blame (or maybe it was - there was no way of knowing for sure), it had certainly played a crucial role.

"I mean, not that it's a big deal or anything," Laura was continuing, obviously flustered. She began to blush. "I'm just saying that it's kinda strange, you know?"

Mike nodded. "I know. Not the type of thing I'd worry too much about, though."

"Who’s worrying? I'm just saying, that's all. Not that I care in the least bit, but -"

"I was sneezing my head off in the bathroom just now."

Mike felt a sudden shortness of breath as the shock set in and he realised what he had just said. He couldn't believe such a phrase had escaped his mouth. He tensed, waiting for Laura’s reply.

"Really? Well bless you!" she exclaimed, apparently trying to hide the eagerness in her voice and not doing a very good job of it.

Mike smiled his thanks, sitting back on his chair, somehow feeling as though a great burden had been lifted from his shoulders. Could she be a sneeze fetishist like he was? The cynical part of him insisted that it was impossible, that this was simply too good to be true. But he wanted to flush that voice away; he wanted more than anything to believe in what he had seen (or perhaps what he thought he had seen).

The waitress, Tiffany, came out just then. She was about five feet three inches tall, with a thin face, emerald green eyes and caramel hair. She had been sniffling intermittently while she took their order, her small, upturned red nose twitching from time to time. Mike noticed that it was twitching again now as she brought out two personal pan pizzas and placed them on the table, one in front of Mike and the other in front of Laura.

"Is there anything else I can get you?" Tiffany asked, and sniffed.

"That's okay," replied Mike. "We're fine for now."

Laura nodded, looking at the waitress sympathetically. "Are you okay, miss?"

"Yeah, I'm fine," Tiffany answered, her voice hitching. "Just allergies."

As if on cue, she threw her head to the side, and sneezed twice. "Yashoo! Huh...Ya-hishooo!" She then blushed, sniffling wetly and wiping the back of her hand below her nose. "I'm sorry."

"It's okay," Laura said. "My allergies are a pain as well, so I can understand completely."

And with that said, both women sneezed simultaneously:

"Huh...hasshhishooo!"

"Hayeshooo!"

And Mike watched, transfixed, his penis growing tall and erect, a pitched tent over his crotch.

***

After leaving the restaurant, Laura and Mike went to the theatre to see the new Spider Man motion picture that everyone was talking about. The theatre was full and the only seats left were in an empty row right at the back.

“Can you see okay from back here?” Mike asked.

“It’s fine,” Laura reassured him, smiling and giving him a quick kiss on the cheek.

They sat back to enjoy the movie. In the dimly lit, dusty theatre, the sounds of coughing and sneezing seemed to echo in every direction (while Mike adored female sneezing, coughing did next to nothing for him). His eyes veered frequently to the left, where Laura was sat in the seat next to him, constantly sniffling and sporadically sneezing. He wasn’t exactly sure whether it was all the dust in the cinema that was setting her off, but Mike was absolutely loving it. He couldn't even concentrate on what was happening up on the screen, he was in such a state of heightened sexual arousal.

About a third of the way through the movie, his hard-on was becoming decidedly painful. Quickly glancing to either side, Mike decided that the people sat nearest to them were not close enough to be able to get an incriminating view of anything he might get up to. Besides, they were all busy watching the movie. They had better things to think about that anything he, Mike, might be doing. He wouldn’t be bothering anyone, and he was pretty sure nobody would notice, and so Mike decided to just go for it. He oh-so-subtly undid his fly and began discreetly stroking his hardened cock, hoping no one would catch on to what he was doing. In fact, the only thing that even vaguely had Mike worried was feeling a few tickles within his own nose, some rising up like burning coals to scorch his nasal cavities. If he sneezed, then he was sure to draw attention to himself, and that was the last thing he wanted to do. And yet even so, such was the power of his mental block that he was reassured that nothing could make him sneeze. Not here, not in public, not like this. Though truth be told, the two conflicting sensations- the heat in his groin and the heat in his nose- were not unpleasant and he felt brief moments of added contentment when a particularly intense burning seized him. The quickly rising tension was incredibly pleasurable.

And then, he looked across and realised that Laura was watching him, a big grin spreading over her face.

“Mike, since we’re sitting in a row by ourselves, I hope it’s me you’re thinking about … or do you get turned on by guys in funny costumes?”

Mike experienced a moment of total panic. Short of being suddenly consumed by a massive sneezing fit, he couldn’t imagine anything more embarrassing. He tried to think of something to say, but his mind had gone completely blank. Even his erection began to wilt.

Laura giggled. “How sweet. Even in the dark I can see you blushing.” She leant across to kiss him, her hand deliberately resting on his penis.

“Hmm,” she purred, “that’s nice, isn’t it?”

Mike nodded, his embarrassment slowly replaced by a new wave of rising passion. He returned her kisses, running his tongue playfully across her lips. Things were getting pretty hot and heavy. Laura got a firm grip on his hardened member even as she allowed him to gently fondle her breasts. And then, all of a sudden, she pulled away.

“Damn! Hold on.”

Laura turned her head. Even in the darkness, Mike could see that her lips were parted and her eyes were closed. Both of them waited in tense anticipation for a few seconds, and then Laura did something completely unexpected. She shifted to lean into him, and stifled the sneeze into his shoulder.

“Huh… Huh-uhchhf!”

“Bless you,” Mike whispered softly, a rush of warmth originating in his shoulder and flowing through him.

 She rested her head against his shoulder, and Mike listened to the little sniffles as Laura tried to control her breathing, obviously fighting off another sneeze. He was sniffling too; the fine, burning sensation at the back of his sinus cavities had returned, seemingly filling his entire head with an urge he couldn’t have given in to even if he had so wished. And so Mike decided to concentrate on a more pleasant, accessible kind of heat, as he let Laura’s nimble fingers gently massage his cock, working him to a sweet climax.

It didn’t take too long for both of them to lose control. Just as Mike heard Laura’s breathing speed up again in a definitive manner, he felt his orgasm beginning. She stifled another sneeze, a delicate, feminine “Hiiitchhf!” against his shoulder and he filled her hand with semen. The film had been forgotten, and even the itch in his nose had receded from his thoughts for a second. He grinned at the unexpected pleasure of it all.

Laura nudged him gently. “Here, do you need a tissue? I know I do.”

Suddenly he remembered that warm spring day sat in a classroom next to Alison. Only this time everything was happening in reverse. The irritation in his nose had returned fiercer than ever. He strained every muscle to hold the sneeze in, afraid that the events of the evening were already getting out of hand. Thankfully his mental block remained invulnerable, preventing even the smallest, softest sneezes from filtering through.

***

Two hours passed.

Mike pulled the Ford Escort into the driveway of Laura's house, a single story ranch with a navy blue vinyl siding. He killed the engine. The familiar urge to sneeze was prickling his nose again.

"I had a wonderful time tonight," Laura said, smiling conspiratorially as she put her arm around his shoulder.

"Me too," Mike agreed, smiling back and then wincing as the heat within his nose intensified.

They got out of the car and walked slowly to the front door, holding hands.

"Would you like to stay for a little while?" asked Laura eagerly.

Mike felt a strange shiver of anticipation. He wanted to say yes, but there was that damned itch in his nose again. He could feel his temples throbbing, his heart now pounding against his chest in an impending anxiety attack. The sneeze was going to escape him for sure, but not as long as he was in Laura's presence. He wanted to run back to the car and drive as fast as he could until he found a safe spot where he could sneeze without being observed by anyone.

But Mike couldn't do that, obviously, so he did the only thing possible: he took up Laura's offer.

"Sure," he said, his breathing becoming more rapid, his eyes starting to water.

"Great! I'm sure there’s loads more fun we can have together. The night's still young, after all."

"Yeah, sure, loads of fun." Mike's whole body was trembling and he began to sweat.

"Are you okay?"

Mike nodded. "Everything's fine."

They stepped on the porch, and Mike suddenly doubled up, cupping his hands instinctively over his face as he let out four sneezes, each louder than the last.

"Huh-hashchoo! HaaSHOO! HASHCHEEW! HAEESCHOOO!"

He was overwhelmed with shock and disbelief over what had just happened. Had he been dreaming? Was it possible? Had he really sneezed with Laura right next to him? It was absolutely unbelievable, seemingly impossible, and yet it had happened, and Mike was beyond flustered. For the first time in ten years, he had actually sneezed while someone else was present. In some small way, it was exhilarating, but it was scary as well. He felt naked, vulnerable, and bewildered. His face was burning with embarrassment. In that instance, he feared that Laura would be driven away, cringing in disgust for sure.

"Oh my God! Bless you!" Laura exclaimed excitedly. She was shivering, but judging from the look on her face, it wasn't at all in revulsion.

"Thanks," he said, his voice barely above a whisper.

Laura suddenly wove her arms around his body, hugging him tightly, coming at him with such force that he nearly toppled over. She kissed him passionately, moving her tongue against his as they remained enraptured in each other's arms and their lips merged.

Mike felt the tickle returning deep within his nose; felt sure he was going to sneeze again while they continued to kiss. He tensed, and then relaxed. Flowing through him was an inexplicable certainty that even if he did so, it would still be all right.

***

After they went inside, Laura took a seat and invited Mike to sit next to her. Her sex was already moist; she had never seen Mike sneeze before tonight, but finally that wish had been granted and it had been wonderful, filling her with lust for the man she had just started dating. “Marry me,” she thought to him as he took a seat on her couch, but of course she did not say it out loud.

Her cat appeared in the living room and jumped on her lap. "Hi, Lizzie," she said, stroking the cat's head. "We have a guest tonight. Lizzie, meet my new boyfriend, Mike."

"Hi," Mike said, grinning and waving at the cat.

Lizzie purred softly, and jumped off Laura's leg, scuttling away.

"So what now?" asked Mike as he put his arm around her shoulder.

Laura smiled, an idea having just entered her head. Only a few moments ago Mike had patiently explained about his mental block, about why he had been unable to sneeze in front of anyone for almost ten years. Of course he had no idea why he’d suddenly been able to sneeze just then, perhaps it had been some kind of fluke, but even if he was never able to do it again, she had been privileged to witness it that one time. And she had to admit it had been incredible.

"Hmm..." Laura thought now of the kitty litter she had in the pantry of her kitchen. Kitty litter always made her sneeze. Perhaps it might work on Mike as well, if enough of it were used. “Only one way to find out,” she told herself.

"Don't worry, Mike," she said, a devilish grin now plastered over her face. "The night's still young and the fun has only just begun!"


Author's note: Like the protagonist, Mike McMillan, I too have a mental block that keeps me from sneezing in public, or if I know that another person is present in the room or close by. I still don't know why it's there, or of the origins of this mental block. A few weeks before writing this, I wrote a self-observation for my storyboard, and Cath UK of Serotica suggested that it would make a good story. At the time, I couldn't think of any, so decided that I wouldn't. I changed my mind, as you can see, and wrote one after all. The other stuff revolving around his mental block was purely from my imagination, though. For one thing, I don't really have a problem with not being able to sneeze around people (at least I don't have to worry about sneezing in front of my parents), except that I can't make any .wavs. And I was never yelled at for sneezing around anyone when I was a kid either, nor have I ever seen anyone scolded or ostracised because of their allergies. Those elements were either added as part of the story or to enhance the story.