My Brain On Crack

I Can Smell You

I was born with superpowers. My birth was heralded by the trumpets of a thousand blowing noses. A thousand throats cried, “Ah!”

I can smell you.

As you approach and before you even walk past me, I have already decided what you smell like based on your appearance. Dryer sheets in the grocery store, sweat on the hiking trails. I know this with the inner sense we all share. We lift eyes and greet one another kindly, or nonchalantly, or not at all. We continue our separate directions, you one way and me another. After you pass I am bathed by a wafting of your being, an air current bearing with it a tide of your essence. My superpowers engage. Try as I might, I cannot help what comes next.

I inhale. Deeply. I can smell you.

Here is where I am proved wrong. Dryer sheets on the hiking trails. Cinnamon and vanilla — or is that coffee? — in the grocery stores. I had it wrong.

Dryer sheets are an evil surpassed only by cigar smoke. They asphyxiate. If you use them in your house and you happen to be running your dryer as I cycle past, my throat burns. I cough. Petroleum, get thee from my lungs!

If we happen to get close enough for a hug, I will know your shampoo, your soap, your secrets. I inhale you deeply. You fill my cells with your essence. We become one for that moment. I can smell you.

This superpower has other uses. I know when things are burning that shouldn’t be. I can tell when cakes, cookies, and toast are done to perfection. I appreciate a new book, its pages crisp and ink fresh. I remember the scent of newborn babies.

Scent memories run fresh. I once had a yellow blanket, one corner browned from being pressed nightly to the underside of my nose in comfort. When Blankie was washed it took days to get it right again. I remember places by their smell. Paris is perfume and the Metro, and tiny quiches and baguettes wrapped in colored paper. The paper wrappings all smell the same. Ireland is damp green, warm with conviviality. Germany smells of steel and rain and sausages. Finland smells of ice, clear and crystal cold, tinged with warm cedar.

I can smell you. Walk by me now, dare me to lose myself for a moment in the swirling cells that surround you.

One Comment

  • Matthew

    I love this. Bringing alive life through a sense we take for granted unless it’s sold to us or offends us.

    A question though: what do you smell like to yourself? Do you use it for self knowledge?

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