2-24-09 / Olfaction Jackson

24 02 2009

It’s a little after 5:40 in the morning and I’m hanging out at a bus stop.

I missed my appointment the other day for the annual physical that is a requirement when you donate plasma, so today I want to get in early, see if someone doesn’t show up, and then slide into their time slot as a walk-in.

On the way to the stop I realised that I only had a five in my wallet, so I figured I would stop at the coffee stand near the stop to break it. As I approach the window I see a brunette, her eyes are fixed on a something in her hands that looks like a small notebook. She’s cute. I say hi and she jumps. We laugh and she breaks the bill. The smell of brewing coffee reminds me of my first apartment, working nights and drinking it black because I couldn’t afford milk.

I make my way to the stop as the wind picks up and I feel the beginnings of a drizzle. This was a stupid idea. I should have bought a coffee from the brunette.

Later on, a middle aged woman gets on the bus and takes a seat directly behind me. After a minute I can smell her perfume. It’s the same perfume that an ex-girlfriend of mine used to wear. We were coworkers, and I ended up quitting the job after we split up. I miss the job. It was unfulfilling and the pay was shit, but I liked the people and it was easy. I miss her a little too. Of all the women I am not on speaking terms with anymore, I think she is the only one that I regret.

At the Station I get off and find my next bus.

I lived in San Francisco for a while when I was a child (in the Tenderloin, but those are stories for a different day), and there was an Asian family that lived in the same building as I did. Everytime I walked down the hallway past their apartment there was always a very strong smell that would sit in the hallway.It wasn’t bad, but it certainly was different. I don’t know if it was the cooking, or the fact that they had a ton of people living in the place, but every time I passed their door it was there. The exact same smell.

So, you can imagine my surprise when I stepped on to the bus and there it was.

Later on I find myself at a stop with a decent wait ahead of me. After a while a homeless man walks up and sits next to me. He pulls a set of headphones with a built in AM/FM radio out of his backpack. He can’t figure out which way the batteries go, so I help him out. We strike up a conversation.

First, it’s the weather. I wait for it. Then, we talk about local radio stations. I wait for it. The minute the topic turns to the economy I know it’s coming, and before too long it happens. He hits me up for bus fare. I shoot him down.

He looks at the headphones in his hand. “Gonna sell these for a dollar. At the Station.” He leaves.

At the Eugene Station the platform for the EMX is a crowd. I end up in the back. After a few stops, another homeless man gets on and sits in the seat across from me. He reeks. It seems like a 50/50 mixture of the stale beer smell that pervades the recycling center at WinCo on a hot day, and pure despair. The smell makes me think of sorting bottles and cans at the market I worked at. I’m not a germaphobe, but I always wore long gloves during, and scrubbed up like I was going into surgery afterward.

The man has two bags of empty cans with him, set down at his feet. The EMX takes a harder than average turn and one of them topples over, spilling cans everywhere. A couple of them start to roll past me and I stop them with my foot. Steel Reserve tall boys (big surprise).

The man gathers the cans back into his bag, and then fishes a napkin out of his pocket and tries to wipe some of the spilled liquid off of the floor. He gets off at the next stop. I think he does it because he’s embarassed, because we’re miles away from any places where he can recycle those cans.

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