I used to get earaches every other month as a kid. My parents were very pro-antibiotic, so the infections never got far. But I’ve met a good handful of people who’ve had middle ear infections so bad that they woke up in the morning with a tiny puddle of blood on their pillow, hearing a hollow sound in the whole of them. Windy waves of chutes and ladders.

I had a pretty bad sinus infection last week and, just for a night, my right ear didn’t ache so much as kick and scream. And right then I wanted the whole thing to pop. It would have been a heartbreaky release, but a release all the same. And think about the sounds I could have heard–good evidence of my body working.

It’d be like listening to the conch my dad had in his office when I was a kid. I’d jam my ear next to the shell, tilt my head and nod as it swooned, the way I still do when someone tells me a secret.