I’m entering the elevator and the space closes in on me. I have never experienced claustrophobia, and this was no exception. On my command, I’m heading down.
Even before the doors close, I’m somewhere else.
The presence of predecessors linger.
I’m surrounded by a blind charge. The phantom scent of someone else sneaks through my skull. I’m met with their vague character.
The air moving through my nostrils yanks a memory from the top of my spine. The orange walls holding the descent collapse. There is a warmth in the air. Contention and care are mixed with no sourness. Gentleness is the aptest description, as my mind connects the fragrance with a face.
The elevator of my mind descends me inwards to somewhere safe. I’m in an embrace and the sun peeks through the blinds. Time floats still.
You say a word through your hair.
I don’t know how to respond.
The bottoms of my shoes tell me I’m no longer moving down. The walls are brought back up, in an instant, followed by the door smoothly sliding open. Whatever memories was just brought, are now scattered in an unconnected mess.
I step out.
And I wonder what charged air I left the elevator with.
There was a fire in a senior apartment complex. It happened in the summer, two or three summers ago, my memory says. The place was near a high school I went to, in a town where I lived most of my childhood. However, I feel the apartment complex was built after I graduated from that high school, so its impact on my memory was a couple of years too late.
Luckily there weren’t any casualties. The fire was limited and the news did tell about a person who banged doors to make sure no one was left behind.
My sister lived eight or so kilometers away from that place. On that summer evening, the windows on her balcony were open.
The charcoal and other odors were carried by the wind. There was unsafety in the air even before she learned of the fire from the news. Closing the windows was no help: the shell of the home was porous to the smell.
The fire and burning took home in the lungs of everyone it reached.
I don’t know if it was she or I who had the nightmare of even worse scorching fires the following night.
Leaving my apartment building, I’m walking to wherever I was going, turning right or left only a few times.
My diffused attention is bothered only by one exception.
There’s a woman wearing a long beige coat and a deep emerald green knitted scarf. She’s smoking a cigarette. From 15-ish steps away it seems it was freshly lit just around the corner.
Instinctively I’m bracing myself.
I interrupt my cycle of inhales and exhales to avoid the smell of cigarette smoke.
Passing her I’m entering a momentary micro-climate of byproducts and perfumes.
And I hold my breath.
A bit more.
A tiny inhale confirms I’m past the contested air.
And I breathe in (might have breathed out first). After a few lungfuls, I’m returned to my usual cycle.
This process happened only twice today. Other similar ones were surely on my route, however outside my perception. And surely in my habitual breathing cycle, I miss smells with gateways to events in my psyche.
Now I’m on the way back, and the city is nowhere smelled. The stagnant air holds its secrets.
Still, I wonder if it is me who is out of sync.
Back at my apartment building, I hesitate between the stairs and the elevator.
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