Thursday, March 13, 2014

How Today Smells

I scream, you scream, we all stink.

It's that hint of coconut, or verbena, or butterscotch, the one that removes paint from buses, that knocks pigeons from ledges, that cracks pavement. That one. That's how I know you're coming. And my nose is no longer that good, but here it needn't be.

Even I can smell you. Through the door. If you bathe.

Because if you bathe here you use their soap. And it's based on an alternate reality.

I'm south of the equator. This is true, but there is more afoot than being physically upside down. Other things are askew, inverted from what I used to think was right side up.

Walk along any U.S. street as you are, today, South-America scented, and you will leave a trail of dizzy citizens stumbling and swerving, crashing into one another, dazed and blinded by your aroma. The aroma of Latin America. And we are not alone, you and I, it is not a thing we and only we two share.

We broadcast it. We have to. Our industrial florescents follow us everywhere. We are neon-odored.

I chose my soap as carefully as could be, given my location, given what was available, and now I am using bars labeled blanco and also neutro. Blanco they may be, but neutro is relative. Not neuto. No. At all.

Neutro here, in the realm of scents, is practically an anti-aroma, a nothingness, merely imaginary. But on an objective, absolute international scale, even the thought of it is more than sufficient to kill termites by mail.

The soap stinks in a way that is beyond stink. It stinks by day and by night, never stopping to rest, or to sleep, or to go for a walk, or to take a break. It is on the clock more than 24 and on the calendar more than 7, stronger than my ability to resist. It lunges at me from the bathroom every time I come home, and when I go out, if I have bathed, it rides on my shoulders and scurries to and fro under my clothes.

Resistance is futile. I have been assimilated.

And compared to the other options, the other bars, the other soaps on the shelf, at the store, all of which surged toward me and left me gagging for hours, well, the soap I did buy is only a slow death — the mere hint of a distant, intriguing, inviting fragrance by comparison.

Damn. I don't know how they stand it here.

Ivory I get. Ivory Soap is what I've used for decades. I can't it get here. Ivory too has a scent, but you have to hunt for it, to stalk it, to search it out — it is furtive and timid. It hides away. It does not come for you, leaping for your face whenever you stray too near. Ivory is a rare and ephemeral wisp of almost imaginary olfactory stimulation, and refreshing. I miss it.

I miss, too, the other things I once used. Unscented laundry detergent. Unscented diswashing detergent. Unscented sunscreen.

Yes, even the sunscreen.

I bought a tube. You have to. Or you pay with significant sheets of skin that die and slide painfully away after only short outings, the sun here is so fierce. When I use this sunscreen I become Falana Banana Coconut Man.

This is not how I want to be remembered.

Too bad then.

This is my life now.

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