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How We Stay Alive.

May 19, 2012

I have this smell on my old shirt that reminds me of basements, a heady smell.

The kind that makes you sit down on the edge of the bed after you bury your nose inside of it.

The stench of menthol cigarettes smoked the day before, of a long dark hallway into a windowless cubbyhole of a room where accounting gets done by a woman named Millie and her mother.

My father’s smell, of course.

The smell of a dead man, dead so many years now. These folds of brown fabric have Staying Power: the kind of scent that doesn’t believe in the washing machine but rather in the cycles of Rebirth, in the vast lives of molecules on spin and rinse.

Smells don’t really ever leave.

We choose them to stay.

Or not.

Same with people.

Around the world, led by our noses, through our own muddled histories. As if we are in a hot air balloon inside what feels like a dream: everything vaguely familiar and far-off at the same time.

The smell of a diner on Third Avenue where bacon is frying and a woman scrubs her teeth with her forefinger, using a butter knife to see.

That bacon will always be the day she found out she had stomach cancer, I left New York City, my friend found a kitten in the back of her jeep, my cousin overdosed and had a seizure at a Shell station two hours south.

To me: bacon will always be: that day, that diner, that woman, cancer, a gas station in New Jersey, my father’s old shirts folded in a box in a closet somewhere far away in Philadelphia, waiting for me.

The smell of wet snow is going to a homecoming football game with my godparents on Thanksgiving, a knot in my stomach because I am starving. Always starving. Ninety-eight pounds and starving.

Wet snow is my entire seventeenth year.

I am wondering now about the things that we do to keep us connected and alive. Music is one. Smell, another. Taste. Food. Sex. Yoga.

What else?

if I close my eyes I can smell my father and he has been dead a long, long time.

Why is that?

Because we choose to keep certain things alive so that we stay alive.

How else can we suffer such loss, not only of loved ones, but of the moment?

This moment.

This moment will never again happen but if you close your eyes,

There, like that,

and soften what you think you know you will find places you remember, places you can touch with a simple nod, a simple inhale,

a simple Yes.

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No Comments

  • Reply jamesvincentknowles May 19, 2012 at 7:50 pm

    yes, love, yes

  • Reply barbarapotter May 19, 2012 at 8:33 pm

    Beautifully expressed

  • Reply Kim May 19, 2012 at 8:53 pm

    So beautiful, Jen!

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    […] How We Stay Alive. « Manifestation Station […]

  • Reply nikky44 May 20, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    absolutely true and beautiful!

  • Reply Christy May 20, 2012 at 8:40 pm

    Ahhh, Yes. Love this… Thank you!

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