Thursday, December 17, 2009

Coffee and Soap

I saw him in the hospital 10 years ago. His weak body was supine, his skin clinging hungrily to his 70-year old bones. His gray hair was long and stringy from neglect, framing the face that was devoid of any expression save that of suffering. The room stank of death, which was strange because he was alive, and because I didn't realize I knew what death smelled like until then. Even more curious were my tears, though he didn't look remotely like my father.

The last time I saw him was 23 years prior to that hospital visit. He was as I will always choose to remember him-- the neatly combed hair that was more golden than gray; the calm, intelligent eyes and patrician nose; the stern lips that let neither frivolous laughter nor idle talk pass between them. He was handsome. His manners, his posture, and his style only complemented the fact. And he always smelled good.

Death reeks of something foul, a shiver that runs down your spine while you resist the urge to gag. More caustic and searing than human, I think. A smell you feel before your nose can define it.

He smelled of silence, of sharp intellect unostentatious beneath the surface. He smelled of warmth, of comfort, of quiet and contented company. He smelled of coffee and of soap.

And as always, when I write about my father, a butterfly floats by.

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