I was blessed with a slightly-better-than-average sense of smell, presumably to make up for my slightly-worse-than-average eyesight. You know how Daredevil was blinded by the same radioactive waste that made the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and his other senses became super powerful to make up for it? That happened to me, but on a way less impressive scale.
In fourth grade, my Girl Scout troop tie-dyed t-shirts (we were working on the hippie portion of the American Subcultures badge) and our troop leader told us to wear them the next day so everyone at school could bask in our matching glory. I was incredibly proud of my shirt. It was the color of a blotchy fresh bruise and had a giant paint blob on it that I felt was a faithful depiction of my Girl Scout vest. When I put the shirt on before school the next morning, though, I knew something was horribly wrong.
I didn’t need to use my super-nose to know that the whole shirt still reeked of dye. I hadn’t washed it because the dye hadn’t set, and I was much too excited to put off wearing it. I went happily off to school, where I kept a strategic distance from everyone the entire morning.
By the afternoon, I had forgotten my shirt smelled. Maybe I was used to the scent or high on the fumes. Whatever the case, I got sloppy. During math, I stupidly flagged my teacher over for help. She immediately started sniffing the air.
“Does anyone else smell that?” she asked, and the kids next to me started sniffing exaggeratedly, too.
At this point, I had three options:
1) Admit that the smell was, in fact, emanating from my shirt.
2) Blame the smell on something else, like my friend Kate or the carpet.
3) Deny the smell’s existence and attempt to convince her she was crazy.
I went with Option #3.
“No,” I said quickly. “I don’t smell anything. Are you sure you smell something? Maybe it’s your perfume.”
“I smell it!” yelled the kid next to me. He was so busy sniffing that he missed the death glare I shot him.
“It smells like turpentine,” my teacher said. “It might be a leak or something flammable.”
Soon everyone in my class was walking around my table, sniffing the air and looking for the source. I was sinking lower and lower in my chair.
“I don’t want the classroom to explode,” said my teacher. “Maybe we need to evacuate. I’m going to call Mr. Knight.” That’s when I knew I was in trouble. Mr Knight was the meanest janitor in school.
Evidence that Mr. Knight Was Bad News:
– He was the only adult I knew who smoked.
– He was tall and dried-out looking, with receding red hair and an even redder face that made him look like he was always on the verge of a screaming fit.
– He never smiled and he hardly ever spoke. When he did, he had this quiet drawl like the villain in a Western.
– In first grade, a boy named Kenton poured chocolate milk and wiped fake boogers on my chicken nuggets and I tried to drain them out over the cafeteria trash can, fully intending to eat them because I am gross. Mr. Knight came up behind me and slapped the bottom of the tray so they all fell out. “There ya go,” he said, and walked away in disgust when I started crying.
– My dad was kind of scared of him.
Mr Knight came in, sniffed the air around me, then stood on a chair so he could sniff the ceiling tiles. “It’s not comin’ from up there,” he said softly. He bent down and started sniffing the kids around me. Every time he inhaled, I cringed. By the time he got to me, I was curled into a tight ball in my chair.
He sniffed the air above my head, then bent down closer and smelled my perfect shirt.
“It’s this ‘un,” he said, jerking his head at me. I couldn’t cry in front of him again, and my eyes started stinging from the tears.
My teacher came over to smell me, too. “It is you, Stephanie.”
“I made this shirt,” I said, hoping they would excuse the smell because of its obvious and exquisite beauty. For some reason, they were unimpressed.
“Go to the office and see if they can do something,” she said. Mr. Knight just looked at me like I was vermin. Head down, I trudged to the office.
When I got there, I didn’t know what to say. The secretary asked what I was doing and I whispered, “My shirt smells.”
“…Oh,” she said, staring at me. “Let me smell.” I dutifully extended my arm and let her smell my sleeve. “Whew!” she said. “It really does. How interesting! You have to go back to class now.”
I slunk back in, but the stench preceded me and ruined my cover.
“Stephanie,” my teacher said sharply. “Why are you still wearing that? I asked you to get another one from the office.” She marched me back down the hall to the school nurse to ask if she had an extra shirt. They both sniffed me again, then found an incredibly ugly sweater in the back of the lost and found for me. The nurse tied my old shirt into a plastic bag and we walked back to class, where I shoved the bag into my backpack, feeling betrayed by my own creation. When I finally got home, I pushed the whole bag to the back of a drawer. It wasn’t a masterpiece anymore. Instead, it made me angry and ashamed every time I thought of it. I never wore it again.
I didn’t mean to tell that story, because it ends sadly. I actually meant to talk about the Glade Plug-In that I’m convinced is trying to ruin my life, but a girl can’t make wild claims like that without revealing the tragic backstory that led to her fear of all things scented, which is how this turned into a two-part post. If I’m not back next week with the rest of it, it’s because the Plug-In won. Send help immediately.