My Hallway Smells Like A Swamp Cooler

It’s surprisingly hot out, and the upstairs residents have prevailed upon the building manager to turn on some large industrial fan that puts a roar and a smell into the ground floor, with some humidity. When I smell it I see my grandmother’s swamp cooler bursting into the livingroom window of the inlaw apartment where she lived with my developmentally disabled aunt. There’s a lot to tell about this and I don’t have enough time.

But each breath and footfall down the hall could have been a splash and wade into that dark, less-than-tepid pool of memory. By the time I reached the mailboxes and the door to the laundry, I was well over my head, blinking in the murky, sun-strafed, gravity-defying aquaspace, ready to inhale my first lungful of liquid and prove that I once was perfectly content to do this: this was how I began my life.

My grandmother was a bottomless bowl of kraft caramels on the kitchen table. A maple drop leaf thing that is sitting a few yards away from me right now. I swear I’ll paint it and I never do.

My grandmother had a goiter, a condition I rarely see now in elders.

My grandmother worked in my father’s office and never betrayed his confidence, so that it took 25 years for me to learn that she kept two sets of books for him, and the second set was in the patio closet of my mother’s vacated apartment. We found it and stared at the six and seven figure amounts in mid-60s oversize ledgers. Wordlessly, we packed it on the truck and stored it in the orange-roofed space. I’m telling you now. Please don’t mention it to anyone else.

My grandmother handwrote a book of her recipes for me, and we use it every year to make Christmas cookies.

My grandmother is inside the apartment while we try to sleep on the screened porch and fail. I see this place in the dark, now, almost exclusively, and our attempts to revive her after the cardiac arrest succeed. She is mute and unappreciative. It’s obvious we don’t understand.

My grandmother died and I didn’t learn of it for a couple days. It was decided it was best to wait until I returned from school. I can sit on the grave she shares with my brother and come up completely empty handed when I try to remember her funeral service. Is it possible I didn’t go?

Buoyant, despite the heavy boots. Turning slowly like kelp in the foyer, taking in the terrain, sticky little spheres of air mirroring my nostrils. I can see you calling to me from the surface. I want to stay. I have to go. I want to. I have to. Then alright.

The first strokes for the surface feel like dancing. I don’t think we’re ever so beautiful and elongated as when we’re going up for air.

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