They say the strongest sense connection to memory in humans is smell. I suppose this is true. A whiff of pipe tobacco brings me instantly back to my great-grandfather. Salty air reminds me of high school summers spent at the beach and my dog’s smell strangely enough returns me to late night college study sessions. (Does anyone else think their dog smells like Fritos?) I find I’m usually not transported to a specific moment in time, just a general feeling of joy from a period in my life. Unless it’s not joy, but revulsion.
Take my former co-worker, a lovely woman, who accosted everyone within a 100-yard radius by taking a bath in her eau du gasoline each morning. Like a bell on a cat I always knew she was coming. If it was impossible to dodge her, I found myself taking giant steps backward to gain some clean air space to which she’d respond by taking giant steps forward. Turns out she was also a close talker.
So it is with much regret that I am reminded of her when I squeeze myself into the mass of humanity on the 2 train. After a few inhalations of most scents I become dulled to them. (Cocktail tidbit: The “nose” at one of the most respected perfumeries in Provence, Fragonard, works only in ten minute increments to keep his schnozz fresh.) But not this musky, pungent, most dreadful excuse for cologne I’ve had the opportunity to smell. It lingers and lingers like the cloud around Pig Pen in Peanuts. There is no escape.
I’m sandwiched between two large ladies made larger by their puffy coats when I realize I am doubly vexed on this ride. A young guy is talking to a woman he just met. She’s across the aisle, and rather than give up his seat, it’s so much easier to shout to be heard. She seems to understand what he’s saying with all the nodding and amening and uhm-hmming she’s doing. He might as well be speaking Japanese as far as I’m concerned. Actually it would be better if he was speaking Japanese because then I could tune him out. Instead I listen to the gibberish, trying to make heads or tails of it.
So here I am: My nose is constantly being assaulted. I’m hot. And this moron seems to be hollering about some injustice. This is the…worst…ride…ever. That’s it. Game over. I want to drive to work. I want a big, ol’ honkin’ SUV with a comfy butt warmer and a new car smell.
But then I think about you fine people. You, who’s reading this right now. How could I leave you hanging without seeing this through to the end? I take out my notepad and jot down what he’s saying verbatim (because, let’s face it, in a world of James Freys you might not believe me otherwise).
“I said, I said, ‘cause she told me. Yeah, she told me, she said. I ain’t making this shit up now. She collectin’ an’ workin’ an’ collectin’ some more. Oh yeah she does. Yeeaaahh. She ain’t gonna do it. I said it, I said it. Uh-uh. Look here. I ain’t lying. I told her, beeyatch, when I do it, I do it. That’s all about that, I said. She said, she said, you know. You know. ‘Cause that’s me. That’s how I do it, I said. That’s how I do it. No one else does it like that. Dang! When I come atchoo, I come atchoo. I said., I said. Uh-huh…”