Not a work-out stink. Or a work-hard stink.
I stink like I’ve been living on the street in the same clothes for seven days.
This is my first profound realization since I became homeless, missing, dead. In our society, certain smells are desirable. Work-out and work-hard smells, though thoroughly scrubbed away, offer a validation of effort. A vindication of our American spirit. The scent of sex lingers over us, and we let it, at least some of us.
But then there are the smells of foreign food, which is enough to reveal certain bigots and major foodies. Such smells can cut both ways. Like the smell of smoke, repulsive to some, missed by others, and required by many.
Smells reach into our memory stores and remove us to the moment. Or make us like lead, hard and cold and heavy. They warn us, instruct us, and tease us.
For the first time in my existence, I am none of those smells. I stink of the street. Of greasy hair and unwashed pores. Of fear and freedom, intermixed. I smell of subways, buses, and the vapor that consumes a city like this one. I stink of thirst, a stink I most abundantly taste. Of earth and concrete. Of rancid, overdue coffee.
I am the person all others avoid. No greater disguise exists. For who could look into the eyes of a vagrant? Few in number and not apt to asking too many questions.
I thirst. I hunger. I stink. I ache. I tire. I want. Oh, how I want. To be in my loft. To reassure my mom that I’m okay. That everything is okay. To write that stupid book I so perniciously avoided and to deliver it with gifts of chocolate and wine to my poor, long-suffering editor. To shower for three hours, not caring one bit about water conservation. To sleep in my bed with its me-shaped groove.
One week. Seven days. That’s all it took for me to lose the momentum Evelyn gave me. That’s all it took for me to not care about the Internet or anyone on it. That’s all it took for me to call Evelyn, hear her voice, and hang up.
No longer cafe worthy. No longer library material. No longer welcomed anywhere by anyone.
No place to go but home.
I begin the long, penniless walk to the train station.