Tuesday, November 2, 2010

what does your childhood smell like . . . redux

laid to waste by a vicious virus for close to 72 hours now, delirium, fever, seven pounds lighter, i tell a friend this:

i'm a weak lung case -- almost died of the Croup when i was two, they kept me in a oxygen tent for a month -- its one of my first memories, being in the oxygen tent and eating cereal out of the box, remember those little cereal boxes you could tear the side up off of, with wax paper inside, and you could pour milk right in the little box?

and this floods my head with the smell of Vicks Vapor Rub—its night in my room over the kitchen, the house in Westport guards me against the blue night, there are stars banging off the stone walls and headlights zooming up the hill on Bayberry, and the steamer hisses all night, and I cough and cough and my grandmother comes in and finds me on the floor curled up, half under the bed, with a blanket and i insist that i was going somewhere and she puts me back in bed and smears more Vicks on that place where my throat meets my collar bones and i breathe and then she puts more Vicks in the steamer and the thing gurgles and whistles like my lungs and her hand is on my forehead and she tells me i don't have to go to school tomorrow. Morning comes and there is snow, just enough that it lights up the house and i hear my grandfather turning the water on and then off and then on again in his bathroom. He does this every morning, the washers on the faucets squeal under his big hands, on and off and on and off and he bangs about in there, finally the door opens and liniments and Bay Rum bound into my room, "How ya doin' kid? Rough night?" I nod and he winks and stomps down the stairs in his paddock boots. He'll drink a glass of bitters and then go to the barn to feed the horses.

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