Two and a half million sweat glands. That was a lot of potential sweat. Per adult person. Easily 50 people here, pretty much shoulder to shoulder, though it was impossible to see really. She was squeezed into the back of the room with a woman and child to one side, a lanky teen on the other, his thumbs pumping like mad men on the keypad of his phone, the eerie glow lighting up his flying fingers and his nose. He was the one carrying the scent of warm hay, diesel and good, old-fashioned sweat.
Or perhaps it was the tall, bald man in business slacks and a dress shirt who was in front of her, humming Nearer My God to Thee. Really? He couldn’t think of another hymn? His shirt was long-sleeved, but rolled up above his elbows. Surely as a professional he wasn’t the one smelling like he’d just come from the gym.
Note to self: pack enough deodorant to share in the to-go bag.
Though would she have really reached in the bag and handed it to anyone and said, “Here, try some!” No. Scratch the deodorant idea. She shifted the pack from her shoulder to the floor, carefully so as not to bump any of her basement-mates. It was heavy enough with everything already in it.
Maybe it was her. The thought made her stomach clutch. There was no way to raise and arm and check it out. But it certainly was stuffy. No, it was downright hot. Unless maybe this was a hot flash. No, a power surge.
Power surge. Had she unplugged the computer? Wouldn’t matter much if it was picked up by the wind and tossed to the next town. Along with papers in the files that she would never remember and hopefully never miss. Her mind’s eye now saw the father-mother-child statue that her husband bought her in Mexico, when he was reluctantly and obnoxiously cruising with her for their 20th anniversary, churning end over end and smashing against a flying tree.
She shook her head. Stupid thought. Why would she picture that?
Where was he anyway? He couldn’t stay in one place long, at least not with her, because she was already an ally. He would be impelled to find other manly men of manliness to make instant but transitory connections with. It would have been nice to have his hand to hold, even though it was his fault she was crunched into this unknown place with these unmet people.
But safe. She had to give him that. She was safe.
She glanced around the room, now that her eyes had adjusted to the dim light from the projection TV. How many of these people would she ever encounter again in her life? And if smell was the strongest memory trigger, could it be possible she’d recognize the trembling woman beside her that way? Or the infant she clutched to her chest? Would the baby grow up still smelling of powder and mashed carrots? She would surely recognize farm boy.
Everyone else seemed glued to the television. Naturally. Somehow she had lost the morbid curiosity of whether her home was intact or in splinters. She couldn’t bring herself to care where the tornado was tracking anymore, now that she wasn’t trapped in a Matchbox car waiting to be twirled about by some cosmic boy enthralled with loop-de-loops.
Here in the soft, increasingly-peaceful dimness, her mind refused to quit swimming with the residual knee-weakening, thought-muddling fear generated from one hasty, selfish decision after another–decisions that were not her own. Her brain wanted to get a grip on this surreal situation, this being hopelessly sucked into a growing maelstrom that would stretch on and on and on, even when this crisis was over.
She had to learn to tell him no. If she was ever going to stop being sucked into these situations she was going to have to say it. And mean it.
Such a simple word. A powerful one. An impossible one?
If she could find it in the map of who she was, if she could learn to use it, would she finally find a shelter that would bring her peace?
This entry is the result of today’s daily prompt from Writer’s Write which is pictured below. My book at hand was A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra