#17 Visiting the Collection: The Post Office

Jim waited patiently in the post office parking lot, meditating on smells that were almost too familiar to detect; the synthesis of Mother, the leather upholstery, Armor All surface cleaner, the wool in his sweater. The one thing he could not smell was his own personal scent.  He journaled extensively on the subject, comparing ones UPS (Unique Personal Scent) with the Om of Eastern spiritual traditions, in that its ever-presence required a certain level of spiritual mastery to detect.

Right on time.  Profile #144 (shoe polish, Skoal, industrial cleaners) is unlocking the main entrance door.  Well done.

He would be the first patron this morning to be sure.  Satchel slung over his shoulder, with the clinking of tiny glass dropper bottles, he walked swiftly through the cold morning air to the entrance pausing briefly to center his thoughts and tune his senses before entering what to him was a sanctuary, a shrine to his one and only true love.

He stepped into the quiet entrance hall, floors freshly waxed and polished to a high gleam even in the the low light of the energy-judicious government facility.

polyurethane, shellac, lacquer, urethane, wax, varnish, aluminum oxide finishes, epoxy…mmmmm, fresh floor wax…faint lingering of engine heat from buffer.

For a moment he closed his eyes, breathing steadily and deeply, holding each smell in his well-tuned mind and then allowing them to blend together into a single complex blend.  Then he stepped toward the letter boxes to spend some time with a blend of paper, envelope glue and metal.  But these were all stops along the way to his destination, the counter.

The counters were made of 1950s commercial-grade formica, the central component in profile #1.  As he walked into the room with the main counter, the workers immediately recognized him.  He would not be shipping anything, he would just be visiting.  They tolerated his presence as long as he did not begin sniffing patrons.  That was the agreement, and he had held up his end of the bargain, mostly.

He sat down in his preferred chair, which was the one closest to the counter, and his love affair began.  He began by simply taking in the smells of the room, focusing in on the formica, until his head began to spin and his heart began to race.  The butterflies came to life in his gut, the butterflies that told him he was still in love.

He then began to envision the brief moment he had actually spent with her, that fateful day in a Texas post office when he and his mother stopped by before departing on their trip to a new home and a new post office in Oklahoma. He was only a boy. He could see the girl in her red and white polka-dot dress and her black patent leather shoes, ruffly white socks, shiny hair with a red bow, as innocent as he.  She had turned to look back at him, timidly, never smiling as their mothers took care of there business above the counter.  They were in their own world below the counter, shyly eyeing one another, never speaking.  In that moment he had loved her, and he had never stopped loving her.  It was perfect, pure, and eternal.

He tried to imagine what she would look like as a teenager, giving her poofy bangs suspended by a zealous amount of hair spray, but still keeping the red bow and some variation on the polka dot dress.  He would take her out on dates and to the prom. He imagined what their first kiss would be. It would be under the kissing tree at school. The scent: her perfume, a whiff of cigarette smoke from jocks walking by, a little bit of diesel fume, and some spearmint gum.

It’s all in the details.

As adults, they would marry and even have two children, a boy and a girl.  They would live together in the old house with Mother, laughing about their days and watching their two children playing tag in the yard.  At night, they would lay in bed together and whisper sweet things to each other that only they would know about.

This was his true life, bound up in smells and memories and dreams.  This is what he lived for.  All his work in the basement laboratory centered around capturing and synthesizing  smells in tiny bottles that he could then use to create his life as he chose, the life that he could live only in smells.

As the lines began to form at the counter, his meditation broke up.  It was time to move on to other key destinations in his collection.  Not finding any new smell components, he simply pulled his journal notebook out of the satchel and jotted down a few thoughts about his visit.  Taking one final whiff, he rose and left.

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11 comments

  1. As an author, I can appreciate a person with a rich inner life and furthermore as a romance author, I can appreciate the whole love at first sight/everlasting devotion thing.

    Jim, however, has some issues. Which is fine. Everyone has their quirks and whatnot, but this obsession with the Post Office of all places is just… wrong.

  2. The entire concept of “collecting smells” and re-creating them is unique and intriguing. I think this has a slightly creepy feel to it without being overtly weird. Smells can be extremely evocative, especially when related to childhood memories. I liked this one because it is in a Post Office (who would have ever considered it a “romantic” memory?). Keep up the good story telling.

    1. It all comes back to episode 1, when we learn that his obsession with smells originates the event in the post office. Yes, his stalking tendencies make him creepy. Loneliness and isolation breed all kinds of mental illness. But maybe he’s harmless…maybe.

  3. So Jim does have aspirations beyond the merely olfactory. Can’t help myself but I find myself caring for the dude more and more each week.

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