What’s Your Favorite Thing Smell Like?


That sounds dirty.  Even typing it got me giggling a little.

I didn’t go to work today.  This was at first because I was scheduled to take the GREs, but then, after I canceled them – seven of the eight schools I’m interested in do not require them, and I’m so terrified of the most basic algebra and geometry that I start whimpering like a lost kitten floating down a river on a log – it ended up being because I had already asked for the day, and goddammit, I’m taking it.  My boss didn’t start laughing hysterically or whip me on the side of the head with a torn-off television antennae when I asked, so why not?

I got up early, both out of habit and out of a coke-fiend-esque hankering for coffee.  I threw on some clothes in the kitchen in the dark, imagining Marissa trying to fall back asleep and silently berating me for being so loud and clumsy when I get up before her.  The other day, I got up, poured myself a glass of juice, and sat at the kitchen table.  I took a sip of my delicious juice, and then set the glass down – into thin air.  It clattered to the floor and basted me and a significant part of the kitchen in a fine mist of cran-raspberry, and so I set to crawling around on my hands and knees for fifteen solid minutes with some spray cleaner and paper towels, cleaning up my mess.  This shit happens all the time.  I don’t know how she stops herself from stomping downstairs and throwing me into a vicious ranger chokehold.

I went outside and downstairs, walked up the street towards the Dunkin’ Donuts, both because Cafe on the Corner isn’t open before 7, and because I am a slobbering zombie for that fucking chain.  Tell me whatever you want about how unhealthy it is, what’s in the coffee, the cast of Disney animals they test the blenders on, anything – I will still shuffle over there when I wake up, veritably half-dead, and mutter to the ladies behind the counter that I need a medium regular and I need it fast.  Call it addiction if you’d like – I call it love.

Before I could make it to my salvation, of course, I had to wait for the morning train to go by.  Dover’s got train tracks running right through the center of the downtown area, so several times a day Amtrak passes through, or a seemingly neverending procession of freight cars rumbles by at a crawl – like this morning – and cars on both sides of the tracks are stuck waiting for the most skin-crawlingly tedious fifteen minutes you’ll ever endure in your entire life.  The trains were sort of novel at first, since I’m originally from a place even more rural than here, and it was sometimes rare to see automobiles in my hometown, let alone the sort of hulking locomotives that go by three or four times a day in my current neighborhood.  The novelty wore off relatively quickly, though, right around the seventh or eight time my apartment started shaking while I was sleeping, or perhaps when I was one of the aforementioned people stuck in traffic, drumming my fingers on the steering wheel and imagining the cackling train conductor, shoveling coal into the furnace and giving people the finger as the train went past.  If it wasn’t either of those times, it was definitely this morning, while I stood bitterly in the cold and the dark, watching the train go by, and actually considering how dangerous it would be to try and jump on to one of the metal car connectors and then off on the other side.  Like I said – I want my fucking coffee when I wake up.

The rest of the morning, post-coffee, was great.  I walked home and woke Marissa up and sat on the couch and watched television.  This is, ideally, what I’d like to do for a living – very little.  If there is a company out there on the internet blog-surfing right now, searching desperately for someone to get up and drink coffee and mumble snarky comments to himself about daytime programming, listen, I think you may have found your guy.  I don’t think I’d be remiss in describing myself when it comes to watching television as half-Muhammad Ali, half-missible, and half-Jesus.  I sit on the couch and slurp my coffee in the styrofoam cup and mutter things like, “I must be the greatest,” and the “The champ is – ah, fuck it.”

I saw Marissa off (she actually goes to work – sucker), and then made myself breakfast.  Normally I’m a peanut butter and jelly for breakfast sort of guy.  I don’t know if this is normal, and I’m going to go ahead and suspect that most people eat things like cereal or fruit or oatmeal or what have you, but it’s always made a lot of sense to me.  This is at least partially because half of me is still a child when it comes to food – I’ve gotten better, but even when I’m convinced to eat whole wheat and fruit and salads and that sort of shit, there’s a voice inside of me crying out for hot dogs and grilled cheese and french fries and jelly rolls.  I survived on that shit when I was a kid, and it still speaks to me.  But this morning, despite my habits, felt special – it was my day off! – and I cooked myself bacon and eggs and made it into a sandwich with cheese and fuck me rotten, it was delicious.

While I was cooking, I couldn’t help being enraptured and, admittedly, a little turned on by the smell of greasy bacon in the pan.  I thought to a book I just finished, last night, actually – The Ruins, by Scott Smith.  It’s fantastic, and I’d highly recommend it to anybody and everybody.  I usually read shit that’s hovering on the insufferable border between readable and self-consciously literary, but this was, for the first time in a long time, the sort of thing that actually deserves the moniker page-turner.  It’s a suspense-y, horror-y sort of thing, but whatever it is, it’s great and I’d advise you to look into it.  In any case, if you’re planning on reading the book and want to be surprised, stop reading.  I’m about to take a big, hearty, spoiler-y dump on you.

In The Ruins, there’re these kids, and they’re on vacation, and, from the very beginning, if you’ve ever seen a horror movie, you can tell that they are idiots and that they’re going to die.  And really, the only pleasure to be derived from the book, since it’s not really self-consciously literary and it’s not some linguistic or allegorical exercise or what have you, is in trying to figure out ahead of time how the douchebags are going to fuck up and thus meet their respective, grisly ends.  This is true in horror movies, too – you just want to stick around long enough to see precisely where the axe is going to land.  Only, in this case, the axe in question is a giant, writhing mass of sentient, super-powerful and super-intelligent man-eating vines.

Okay, yeah, I know, this sounds retarded.  I’d apologize on behalf of the book and the author – if it wasn’t so damned good.

There’s something to be said for clear, non-showy, propulsive writing.  It’s not a thing I encounter often (probably my fault more than the authorial community as a whole’s fault, but fuck them!), but it’s a thing that I wish I saw more often.  I don’t understand in a construction sense exactly how to do it, but there’s a way to tell a story that gives just enough information about the characters, the depth of their circumstances, and how the events of the narrative unfold – it’s  particular way to write that is, to me, hard to identify in a hypothetical sense.  It’s a “know it when you see it” sort of thing.  I’m thinking of it in the same sense as watching the hour hand of a clock – you know that it’s moving forward, even if you can’t see or truly sense the exact moment the machinations are taking place.  There’s a way that Scott Smith, the author, pushes forward without the reader even realizing it, and let me tell you, it’s stunning.

Enough gushing.  The point here is that there’s this giant fucking angry plant, and the giant angry plant lives on a big hill, and the big hill, once you step on it, is guarded by a bunch of Mayans with bows and arrows and guns and blank stares.  They’re not going to let you leave, you see, because either they’ve worked out some system with the vine, some truce, or they consider it a God and you’re being sacrificed.  Either way, you’re staying there, and the big angry vine is very interested in fucking with your head for a while, wearing you down, and then taking advantage of your mistakes and slurping you up like a smoothie.  Again, I realize I’m talking about a fucking plant.  Just trust me – it works.  And one of the ways in which it works is by various animal-like behaviors.  The vine can move, it can echo and imitate sounds and human voices (even, it’s implied, as a kind of communication), and it can project smells.  This brings me back to my breakfast.

Now, in the book, once the kids run out of food and start realizing just how fucked they are, the vine starts doing the smell thing – projecting smells to torture these people and weaken their minds, trick them into making a mistake.  And the smells (I’m paraphrasing from memory) progress like this: freshly baked bread, and then meat (cheeseburgers, steaks, hot dogs), and finally, apple pie with whipped cream.  I feel like I would’ve been totally fine with the aforementioned smells, but man, if that fucking vine had started apeing the smell of bacon frying in a pan, I would’ve been diving headfirst into oblivion, tongue out, so fast that my compatriots wouldn’t even have had time to wonder if it was turkey bacon or low-sodium or what.  It would’ve been like this – smell hits the nostrils and you look over and there’s a cloud of hovering Looney Toones smoke where Ken was a second ago, and oh, look, there are his shoes sticking out of the murder plantShucks.

Which brings me to my title question – what’s your favorite smell?



2 Responses to “What’s Your Favorite Thing Smell Like?”

  1. 1 Gray

    Hey i haven’t finished reading this yet but you mentioned juice in the first paragraph and I have no idea what it is.

  2. 2 Gray

    WHAT IS JUICE!?!?!?

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