Scentless

I saw a ghost today.

I have my mother’s nose. Not as large, but as acute. I have a few dozen french jam pots filled with herbs and spices, and I cook by flipping the lids of several to see what will work with the dish. When someone passes my seat on the bus, I breathe them in. I know their most recent habits, and consider how their scent contrasts with their appearance.

I took the glass elevator down from the seventh floor of the parking structure. It stopped at six, admitting a woman my age. It stopped at four, admitting a young couple, a tan-raincoated man who expressed his individuality with his odd soul patch, and another young man wearing a rust-brown leather coat with light stitches, neatly faded jeans, and blue sneakers. I was jammed into a corner of the elevator, looking out the glass to my left. Sneakers was in front of me. Soul Patch was to my right. Sneakers was average in every way, dark hair neither long nor short, chin needing a shave a few hours past, attractive but unassuming. He had no scent. He smelled of nothing at all, not soap, not aftershave, not smoke, not lunch (though someone beyond him smelled faintly of ketchup). I thought it must be me. A slight turn of my head to the right instantly picked up the musty scent of Soul Patch’s raincoat, telling me he’d grabbed it out of the back of the closet this morning, after long months tucked away. Still, nothing from Sneakers. Not even the leather of his coat. He stood only inches from me, I should have at least smelled the leather.

We all exited at the ground floor without incident. I didn’t watch Sneakers to see where he went, but I suspect he faded quietly while no one was looking.

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