Thursday, February 11, 2010

Another olfactory trip

My dearest Nora, wherever thou mayst roam,

I'd forgotten how comfortable the fogginess of sickness can sometimes be. There's a disconnection, at least it's always been the case with me, from the mad rush of the world surrounding.  It's almost like the kid in gym class who, for whatever reason, had a note that excused him from running round the track and had to walk it instead. I was that kid once or twice and it was always a pleasant experience, even in the freezing cold.

My hatred for running was well-known. I wonder if they suspected foul play on my part on these days to get out of it. Probably could've gotten away with faking a few times had I not been scared out of my mind at the possibility of being caught.

I was transported back to 6th grade today, and it was actually a quite pleasant journey, despite my general feelings of disdain for that school year.

As a youngster, I was ill somewhat frequently. Some of the days that I hated most during that school year were when I was sick, especially in my first period science class. He was a great teacher, very funny, and even looked an awful lot like Bill Murray.

But his classroom (in a portable on the edge of campus) STUNK.


It smelled like a stack of soaking wet towels that had been left in a greenhouse, with a little eau de gym sock lightly sprinkled throughout. It was completely overwhelming, and it often made me gag.

To be fair, a lot of things used to make me gag. A lot of things still do. These days, however, I'm mostly only brought to that point when I'm already feeling under the weather. Back then, even on the days I felt the healthiest, some smells would drag me to that threshold...which thankfully, I never crossed whilst at school.

It's funny, but I just realised that I started wearing cologne back then just so I could have a pleasant smell to refer to when things were reaching the puke point. I fell back on that mechanism many a time, I can assure you.

At any rate, that was first period, 7:30 a.m. I knew that if I could just get through that stinky class, I'd probably be okay for the rest of the day.

Besides, I had second period to look forward to! Second period was a typing class, but it was done on computers. They were Apple computers, and I'll never forget the look of the desktop on those...the trashcan in which you'd discard unwanted files was a simple black and white design, but its alternating thick and thin lines around the middle were mesmerising.

The computer lab that this class was in was in the main building, right next to where the high schoolers were attending classes. There were three rows comprised of two tables crammed side-to-side to make one wide table, upon which sat a bunch of computers. There was a dry erase board at the front of the class, which was just as amazing to me as the computers. All my life, until this point, I'd been taught from chalkboards. Dry erase boards, computers, printers producing pages with the perforated crap on the edges you had to tear off...all of it was cutting-edge stuff. Boy, if I didn't already feel like a big shot being in middle school, the very idea that I was using technology that grown-ups used in exciting jobs (far, far, far away from the confines of a school!) really made me feel like something. I desperately loved that class, and it was there that I learned to type.

Another thing I loved about that class, and the thing which ties this look to the past in with my story from today, is the smell of those dry erase markers.

Maybe it was only because I'd just come from one of the most horrific stenches I'd ever been subjected to for more than a few minutes, but those markers sure did produce a lovely and welcoming aroma. They smelled so clean and sterile, almost like the rubbing alcohol applied to my arm just before a shot. Despite my absolute dread over the fact I was about to be jabbed with a needle, the rubbing alcohol smell comforted me and made the process that much more bearable. But, yes, you can be sure that I always tried to sit as close to the front (and thus, as close to the dry erase board) as possible. Taking in that smell was like spraying Lysol up my nose to destroy the funk collected in my nasal passages in my first period class...only, uh, I'd imagine slightly less harmful. As you might've guessed, the smell was most enjoyed on the days that I was sick and on the verge of gagging at the slightest hint of an unpleasant odour.

To put the two pieces together, which up until now have been separated by 14-some odd years...drumroll please...

So, this a.m. I was attending my only class of the day. I'm ill, miserable, don't want to be anywhere besides me bed. The bus ran late, of course, and it's quite cold out (something I'd ordinarily be overjoyed with), and I practically had to run to make to class on time. Upon arrival, I find that only a few seats are open...some way in the back where the constant talkers sit, and one, just one, in the very front row. Hmm. Not much of a decision to make here. I plop down in the front row.

Everything's going fine...or, perhaps more realistically, I'm bored out of my skull. I started to think about my scratchy throat, and suddenly started feeling like one false aroma would send me into gagland, just like back in the day. At the precise moment that I was making that connection to the past, my professor began writing on...yep, you guessed it, the dry erase board. The pleasant aroma of those markers wafted ever so gently towards me, and my psychological queasiness was subdued. Of course, my mind wandered off into the past, to the the beginning of this letter.

It's amazing to realise that I'd not used a computer until I was 12 or 13 years of age, and surely almost all of my classmates this morning had been using them since kindergarten. That's one of the first "back in my day, we didn't have..." I've come across. Hmm. Aging is a funny thing and I'm so glad that I've always been welcoming of it and the changes it brings.

Homework calls, my dear.

May the grace of He keep you always,

J.O. Morris

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