I was driving back to work today from lunch, windows open. It’s hot, kinda muggy. (Well, I’ve lived in the South, so I have to say “hot and muggy for Oregon“.) I came up behind a Lilac GTO some dude was keeping alive. Gorgeous land yacht with a lei hanging from her rear-view mirror to match her paint job. Carpet matches the drapes, huh? When it took off from the traffic light, the smell of its big Detroit exhaust fumes, mingled with humid air and hot asphalt, probably a touch of junk food on the wind, it all transported me. I was a sophomore in Fayeteville, NC, mid-90s, riding around in the rusted deathtrap Camaro my buddy Mike’s parents had senteced him to. Not a big poignant moment in my life. But it’s just strange and powerful how a smell can reset your life. For a few seconds my brain, my emotional state, everything going on in my head was as it was back then. And then it was gone. Back to me, here, now.
The words are hard to find, but there’s something really powerful there that isn’t used enough in writing. Maybe if we had evolved from dogs our writing would be more olfactory-focused. Or maybe we’d be just the same as we are now, but with the ability to lick our own balls. Who knows, it’s a mystery, but I’ll try to remember this and use scent and memory to greater effect in my writing.