Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Summer Up the Nose (Or, Emptying the Purse)

Summer gets into your nostrils. Every time it rolls around, it barrels right smack into the middle of crunch time, when papers are being electronically flung from student to prof with the weight and resentment of cow-pies, and exams pop up like unsolicited buffaloes in the middle of the interstate. But even though academia is blaring in at all sides like Sue Sylvester with a megaphone, summer manages to find a way to pop in and wriggle right up the nose.

Flowers, grass, rain, all the lovely so-poetic-pardon-my-yawn bits and pieces that make up the smell of summer seep in and take up residence relentlessly. From the minute I wake up I can smell them slithering in through my barely-cracked window, and when I burst outside and into the sunshine on my way to class/review session/exam, it's a raucous cacophony of Not School in my nose.

This is, of course, what keeps me going. In December exams are survived by the smell of cinnamon and pine. In May, it's whatever delicious combo of outsideness that is currently dancing through my nose to the back of my mouth and down my throat.

This smell signals summer, and summer means one thing: freedom. Banal, cliche, overwhelming and unavoidable. Whether you're heading to the retail job you've had for years, to a camp full of hero-worshipping teenagers, or an internship that will make or break your post-collegiate career, it is something that is specifically un-school. Even if you've been sucked into the black hole of summer school, it still has the caveat of "SUMMER," which means it will be infinitely less-sucky, because even the profs feel bad for you.

But the freedom from school not only means freedom from school work. It also means freedom from the drama, the decisions, the delirious lifestyle that is university life. Summer is a chance to break free of whatever clustasters you've tangled yourself into.

The heralding of this summer is particularly sweet to my nose, because I finally get a chance to step back from this semester. After London, and all the epicalness it entailed, this semester came at me like a bus with faulty breaks in the middle of a rainstorm. BAM - there goes my bag, flung off me with fantastic force out into the street, unzipped in the process and entrails flying everywhere. Make-up, books, keys, and receipts all flew out onto the pavement as I was thrown back, neck crunching into a lamp-post. I sat there for a while, letting the rain fall and regaining feeling in my back. I stared helplessly at my stuff so unceremoniously strew about and getting damper by the second.

It's interesting what one can gain by sitting still against a lamp-post and staring at the insides of her purse. All those bits of life deemed too important to be left at home are suddenly naked in front of your own eyes. You have to look at all the crap you've been toting around for months, the ticket stubs you didn't throw away and the newspaper pages you forgot to recycle, the lipstick you swear you'll need the minute you leave it out and the year-old half-empty lotion that smells too much like a good memory to toss. Everything you and your subconscious has decided you need by your side at all times is suddenly bare and in the middle of everything, with cars and passengers and baby strollers and runners with their silly little arm-pods dashing past, back and forth on either side. And the worst/best part is, you no longer have control of your purse.

So that is what summer means to me this year. I get to clean out my purse. I'm going to catalogue the ticket stubs, toss out the receipts, and reconsider the lipstick. I'm going to finish reading that book and switch out the room key for the car key. But most of all, I'm going to have the FREEDOM to untangle my heart-strings and my head-strings from the knots and nots that have been pulling me taught for four months. And oh, it does smell sweet.

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