This One Time, 119

This one time I was in the room with the trunk of everything, the one that took you strange places every time you opened and closed the lid, and I was at the workbench I had installed with all of my little bottles on it. I was relearning the perfumer’s art of my grandfather, who originally owned the aforementioned trunk full of cracked and leaky bottles, though not in any formal way. This was a deliberate hobby. I wasn’t going to spoil it with too much formal education. When I got stuck I would look up hints, but the joy was in finding my own way.

And I was expanding my way past just scent — as if you put a “just” in front of the most powerful, visceral force of human memory and emotional impact. In my view, more is better. So I would find a way to do more. I would find a way to bottle sunlight, to distill pain, both sharp and dull, to filter out the basic essences of boredom and moonlight and time itself, viscous and fleeting. With so many people blinded, partially or fully, by the sunburn, this would be important technology. I realized this while the burn was ongoing.

In the midnight twilight, I climbed out of my cellar and went out into the yard, into the scorched woods, into the roads of the neighborhood, and I gathered debris. Scraps of a t-shirt that had blown off someone’s clothesline. Jars of burned grass and leaves, sorted by kind. A dessicated newspaper. Singed bugs and woodlice. Tree bark. Chips of flaking paint. Fragments of sunburned wood from the mailbox post. Feathers and fur. Discarded candy. I pried up tar that had bubbled up in the asphalt. Abraded away some of the concrete from the sidewalk, even. I ran a compressor to collect the mists and dews, collecting the condensation into jars. I even put out old pairs of shoes for the sun to scorch leather and rubber. Clippings of nails and hair. I sacrificed some potted marigolds and a fresh cigar. I poured beer and wine and scotch and milk and chocolate into ceramic bowls to collect the scrapings the next evening. I put out brass tacks and iron nails and silver spoons for the sun to lick. I collected and sorted and stored many, many pounds of samples and substances and sealed them up for long-term storage. Including some things that possibly the less said about the better.

Later, maybe much later, people would want to remember. And people who had no direct experience would want to know.

I’m not sure how many laws I was breaking to make my own solvents for drawing out the important volatiles. I’m sure there were a few. Nonsensical things mostly — some to make sure that dangerous pressures and flammables were handled correctly, sure, but mostly to make sure that taxes could be collected to assist the government in the prosecution of sin. Maybe when I geared up for full production I would pay for the licenses and inspections and do it all legally and correctly, but, for now… How else could I say it? Time was of the essence.

In the meanwhile I stacked a few new trunks in the corner for storing the unprocessed materials. Spirits being what they are, my workroom was starting to feel a little crowded. I don’t know whether it was just the way we use the word in English (and a number of related languages, it seems), but I was beginning to sense the traces of escaped volatiles as actual presences in the room. And sometimes walking into the room to pick up where I left off from a previous day was beginning to feel like it did when I opened my grandfather’s trunk. I took that as a good sign, except it was getting harder to concentrate on any particular project. I could get lost coming into the room. Once I found myself again, I could get lost in the four steps it took to get to my desk.

I knew I would be done when I could no longer find my way out. Here’s to hoping it will take several more years.


April 29, 2011 · by xalieri · Posted in This One Time  


One Response to “This One Time, 119”

  1. Rebecca Sherman on December 19th, 2011 3:21 pm

    Several novels I read with a tiny notebook handy because I’d find phrases or sentences or entire paragraphs which were so wonderful I never wanted to forget them. I kept vocabulary words from Val McDermid; Cormac McCarthy’s “Suttree” was one with which I needed tiny post-its as well as the notebook. If I had my notebook now, I’d add several from this page before realizing that it was the whole page I loved.

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