From time to time, when I am looking at a student or friend while carefully considering their words, the core of my mind switches to a different time and place, often recalling an olfactory signal that throws me careening back to a past time of incense and sunlight. My companion’s mouth will move and her eyes blink as my heart removes to a tempo sometimes long-forgotten, my mind going for a little spin independent of current things
"...so when the book says..."
The seat beside me is empty as the bus bumps up the potholed road, frost-heaved from the recently past winters' long, icy fingers. My friend Tad is at the back of the bus, talking with someone I don't know and haven't ever seen before as we round the corner in front of the Cathedral of the Madeline. As the looming gothic church fills the opposite windows, I take a deep breath from the package I lift from my lap as I think about a girl.
"...but I just don't get it because..."
The huge wooden door's window is still a way above my head, its mottled light comforting in a way that I won't really understand for a few years. As I turn from the sunlight to head downstairs and then out the back, my eye catches the opaque tendril of incense coming from the burner on the room divider; I remember smiling for a moment before running past the grandfather clock toward the stairs.
"...what the heck does post-industrialism mean here on the..."
The light is bright in my basement room as I walk in, with the shades pulled up uncharacteristically high and out of the way. My window, open slightly as I keep it year-round, is slid ajar a bit wider than usual. The air in the room is sweet, heavy with a scent that I can't quite place or explain. I remember sensing the light, the aroma and a strange feeling of awareness. I learned later, through my habit of rattling off interesting experiences to Tad and his characteristic paranoia and blunt confessions, that he had sneaked into my room through the window while everyone was away to smoke opium and avoid being caught in the act at his own house.
"...what do you think, Mr. B?"
As I quickly formulate an answer, my mind still wanders a bit at the root, methodically piecing together the light and scents of my life's experience.