Smelling Home

Six months ago one of my dearest friends introduced me to a new book called All the Light We Cannot See. Six months ago also began the end of a journey that would eventually lead to a new beginning for me. That month was more turbulent than any other month of my life that I can remember. I spent most of my time reading–reading very slowly so as not to miss any word, to keep myself in Werner’s world for as long as possible. One phrase continues to repeat itself over and over again in my mind: “Why doesn’t the wind move the light?” As I first read that phrase, I was mostly dumbstruck. I began to try to picture wind and light, if one really can picture those elements truthfully. But as I have continued walking toward light, despite the wind that has made me shiver, that has made me seek comfort, that has made me seek shelter, that has made me seek warmth, that has provided relief, that has produced endurance and strength, I have realized that the light never moved, although I may have chosen to come toward it in different ways. The light is not always bright. Sometimes I can barely distinguish its glow. Sometimes the wind is so strong that I close my eyes and do all I can to ignore what is around me. But the light stays on. How comforting that no matter how much I change course, the Light is immovable.

Today was a brighter day, although most of my days have been bright recently. I don’t usually shower in the morning if I can help it. The longer I can sleep, the better off for anyone who comes across my path that day. But there is something invigorating about filling your nostrils with the hot steam rising from the shower floor. It is a soothing smell, a smell that makes you breathe and relax. I felt calm and, oddly enough, awake this morning as I ate my breakfast and prepared my lunch. This past weekend I bought jalapeño pretzels for a movie marathon night. I had enough left over to pack some for my lunches this week. The smell of these pretzels is enough to make you cry. I could feel the tremor of excitement tremble in my blood when I opened the bag. The excitement stayed with me the rest of the day. I couldn’t wait until lunch.

The last thing I do every morning is spray myself with perfume. A couple weeks ago I bought a new Calvin Klein perfume, one I had never even smelled before. I’m not sure, but I may have bought men’s cologne on accident. It doesn’t bother me; I like cologne even more than I like perfume! The scent is not overpowering, but it is muskier than Euphoria, which I had before. Several people today told me I smelled good so men’s cologne or not, the purchase was definitely a success. My apartment mate and I walked outside, and the air smelled crisp like it does after a rainstorm. If it rained last night, I didn’t notice. And I was up rather late, but even the morning air seemed to scream, “I am happy today!” I knew it would be a good day.

When I got to work, I immediately walked into the break room to deal with my coffee. The break room is always cozier than any other part of the building, mostly because the thermostat is turned up higher. But this morning, somebody was making French toast. You know what French toast smells like? Home. As I slowly poured my Sweet Cream into my coffee thermos, I drank in the feeling of safety and warmth. I hope it seeped into my pores because not every day is a comforting day. I walked back to my desk. My desk smells like oranges. But that is not a good thing.

Around 3:00 each afternoon, I eat an orange. Oranges are probably the worst food item anyone can possibly eat at a work station. The peel gets stuck under your nails. The white membrane gets all over your papers, and the juice spills out all over the desk. The reason I eat an orange at work: it takes an hour to eat. And then my desk smells good for the rest of the week.

I threw away my orange peel and washed my hands. I always keep a container of lotion at my desk because water makes my hands extremely dry (odd, right?). Right now I have a Burt’s Bees honey and shea butter lotion. Either it is ten years too old, or somebody was on pot when he chose the scent. It feels wonderful on my skin, but it stinks. Every time I covertly put it on, someone within the hour will say, “What is that smell? Doesn’t it smell weird in here?” I’ve learned to get used to the smell myself.

I walked home from work at 4:30. The fresh smell of clean rain was gone. It now smelled like a very wet dust, a dirty dust. I was beyond thankful to get back into the air conditioning of my own apartment for five minutes–just enough time to change into my workout clothes. I walked into the hallway and was greeted with the strong scent of fresh paint. Someone new is moving in down the hall. My running shorts do not smell nearly as good, but I walked across the street to the aerobics room and did my half-hour workout anyway. When I got home, I was welcomed with hot dogs and Kraft macaroni and cheese. Did I love it? Of course I did! Once again, I smelled “home.”

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