I was sure I’d wet myself during the flight. I apologized to Steve: “What’s that awful smell. Is it me?” Like an old man in need of care, like my now-dead father: like urine, like mildew.
It was Eucalyptus, I was told, common to these parts of Southern California, and, I was told, planted deliberately for just this odor. Could have been a tree of heaven. Like something just this side of death but still certain it’s just fine.
Close to the water, Santa Barbara’s campus smells like oil. No one could swim without coming in smeared with black goop, maybe left over from the 1969 oil spill, maybe seeping from the rigs running along the horizon, maybe simply a “natural” “tradition.” The oil companies tell us we’re making it all up.
There’s a lagoon on campus to remind us of what we drained and paved over. Sovereign mercy.
Using time that’s not ours anymore. Just this side of death.