The recycle bin closet at work smells like Scott’s house. The recycle bin closet is only home to recycling, but the number of times I walk to the closet to rid my office of trash per week is unacceptable. Scott was one of my best friends growing up. My high school graduating class had 31 people. So you didn’t ever lose touch with someone growing up. We were best friends in kindergarten, friends throughout grade school, middle school, and high school, and then best friends again our sophomore year at community college.
Scott’s family owns hogs. So everything they touch–their cars, their house, their clothes, has a lingering whiff of hog shit. You get to the point where it becomes unnoticeable. It blends. It mixes with the other smells of their lives, like laundry detergent and freshly brewed coffee and the Christmas cookies their mom would make every year in their kitchen, and it becomes just another part of them. To this day, the smell of hog shit still makes me think of my Sundays on Scott’s living room floor, eating pizza and watching movies, or nights in his car with the beer bong we made out of an oil funnel and a pack of cigarettes I bought him from work. Or fishing at their pond in early summer. I don’t know why the smell of the recycling bin closet reminds me of Scott. It must have a note of shit.
Scott’s dad died when we were seniors in high school. It was unexpected, sudden, shocking, heartbreaking. We found out at school, first period, from some teachers. Both he and his sister were absent that morning, conspicuously. You just felt the wave of sorrow pass through the high school. Everyone knows Scott’s family. He was the third kid of his parents’ to come through the school system. His dad had gone to high school with my mom. His uncle had married my aunt. That kinda thing.
They showed up some time either late morning or early afternoon. We were down in the Math classroom…although I didn’t take math senior year, so I can’t remember what class we would have been in. At the end of the hall in the corner. He and his sister showed up outside of the classroom, and we were relieved to see them. Surprised again, but relieved that they could function. Could drive and walk and talk. They were out of sorts, unsure how to hold themselves. We made nervous, awkward chatter and tried to treat them as we would on any other day. We had made chocolate pie in Foods and someone had started a loud argument during P.E. Scott told me later that moment really stood out to him as he navigated the new fields of grief. I felt at the time maybe our ignorance was showing, but maybe that was for the best.
Scott and I have finally lost touch, as the circumstances of our lives have taken us away, and as I have pulled in my feelers, saving my energy for other pursuits. But that smell at the end of the hall pulled him out and for a moment, I paused.