“Oh God! What the hell is that smell?” He flinched in disgust, as if stumbled upon a dread wrapped in elements of surprise.
“What smell?” You said, flat-toned and nonchalant.
In reality, you were aware, but it was more worthwhile testing someone (not out of judgement, of course–but as an escape, to kick away some daily banality).
“Do you not smell this?! Gah…”
He could have gone into more descriptive detail, but he doesn’t. Perhaps he couldn’t. That’s just the way he was, a man of few words—literally.
“Hmm. Whatever you are talking about, I must have gotten used to by it now.”
You two were squeezing shoulder to shoulder, trying to make way past a dense crowd.
“Damn it, I didn’t know it was going to be like this. This is nasty, man.” He was serious, but not severely so. He could bear more where it came from; but something made him complain more than usual that day.
“Welcome to my domain, haha. Come on, it ain’t so bad. ”
“Is this what it smells like here, everyday?”
“If that’s how you’d imagine it, I guess that’s how I’d put it. Well..it’s just a spice, or however many spices they are surrounded by, you know?”
Once upon a time, you had the brief honor of meeting a man, an ordinary man, who never seemed to become dismayed by insensitive remarks, and always had a near-innocent patience to explain his circumstances to those who wished to get laughs out of his countenance, sometimes even his decisions. It didn’t hurt him when people didn’t try to understand. As such, his humility made him an extraordinary man.
You were trying to practice the same virtue you admired—as opposed to complete rejection of all that which shoves you out of your elements, try to adapt, then see why a part of you is upset by it. Upon understanding the nature of your complaint, and the conditions surrounding the very thing that disturbs you, it becomes easier to nullify what was once a nuisance, into a fact of life—something tolerable and most importantly, free of discriminatory stigma.
“Man…how do you do it everyday? Having to come here and smell all these people..? It’s like they don’t shower…or something, god. I hate it when people don’t clean themselves.” He stated his conviction more straight-forwardly.
“You’d be surprised. In a lot of parts of the world, people–”
“We are all in America, aren’t we? If they come here, they need to learn the way.”
Conversations of this sort, you had encountered much too often. Right then and there, you were too tired for a potentially rift-forming argument. It had been a long day, and he’s a good friend.
You decided not to press it. However, it was truly befuddling; how can a man, who’s traveled half way across the world, all the way to the poorer countrysides in parts of Africa, could perceive a foreign scent as terribly intolerable.
“I guess.” You responded.