Dec 21

 

I rode the subway in London once. They call it the “Tube” there. I sat next to a young gentleman wearing a London sweatshirt. “It really stinks in here,” he said to me, for some reason, smiling. “I hadn’t noticed any smell,” I said, covering my nose with my scarf. He laughed at this gesture, and pulled his sweatshirt up to cover his nose, too. Over the course of another two stops, I learned that the young man was named Kentucky, studying abroad for the summer, and like me was not keen on the combination of B.O. and stale farts. He had jet black hair cut close to his head, dark brown eyes, a perpetual smile, and a short, straight nose, that I dismissed as puny, telling him he couldn’t really smell what was going on in the train with such a small nose, compared to mine that could rival Cyrano de Bergerac’s and was getting the full force of the smell. He laughed at this too, and described to me the noxious gas floating around us.

We had become partners in crime. Our eyes and noses moved around the car and we quietly described to each other what stench each person was giving off like we were naming each taste our palettes could pick up on a plate of gourmet shit. There was the Indian man to our right, who provided the curry powder and body odor smell. There was the Russian tourist to our left who had never heard of deodorant. There was the English businessman on top of us who had a flatulence problem. The foulest smelling cuisine from all over the world was concentrated in our little train car.

At Liverpool Street there was a great exchange of people and even some fresh air. Kentucky and I watched as the Indian man and Russian tourist exited the train, only to be replaced by 4 Italian teenagers with matching orange backpacks. I watched the teens for a reaction to the smell, but was intercepted by Kentucky who had started to ask me questions about New York. Where in New York did I live? Do I take the subway often? Does it smell this bad? Do people in New York have cars? Do I have a car? All of these questions were distracting me from trying to figure out where the damn smell was coming from. I answered his questions mechanically, suspiciously eyeing a passenger every time I caught a whiff of something rotten. Kentucky kept at the questions, until the blaring sound of an ipod (probably to block out Kentucky’s annoying voice) caught us both off guard. The song in question was some kind of rap- rock- metal fusion that can only be achieved through making your own bad demo tape. “It’s so loud,” said Kentucky, once again pointing out obvious facts.

I had enough of the whole scene: The smells, the sounds, and the sight of Kentucky’s stupid smile at all of it. I was itching –literally- to get out of the Tube. The sound of the automated woman on the loud speaker was never so sweet when she announced that we were approaching Mile End station. I couldn’t jump out of my seat faster, and knocked into one of the Italian teens who said something derogatory to me in Italian, or at least I think he did, because he made a ride gesture with his hand afterward. I was happy to be getting out of there. I pressed myself against the door like a parachuter preparing to jump, and gave one last glance to the train. I met eyes with Kentucky, who had lost his smile and felt a pang of sadness at leaving him alone to deal with the entity that was the smell of the train.

The doors opened and fresh air rushed into me, making my clothes fly back upon the impact. I was out! I was free! I ran up the Tube stairs with a gusto that I didn’t know I had in me. I was renewed and joyous! I wanted to run through the streets preaching the goodness of fresh air to strangers, sucking in the untainted oxygen molecules like a cocaine addict. As soon as I got back to the hotel, I ran to tell my friend of the new and exciting drug I discovered. I burst the door open and was about to take a breath of air when she sniffed, frowned and covered her nose. In a disgusted voice she said, “What the hell is that smell?!”

I only vaguely remember what happened next. Who punched whom. Who yelled about personal space and hygiene to the other. What I definitely remember was the 40 minute shower where I washed everything twice, my hair 3 times. The clothes I burned. Then calm fell over me until I recalled that I had to go to Waterloo Station the next day. shit.

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what's eating jimmy? a blog about food. and jimmy