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Perfume, Mush, and Fa-La-La

The smell of old, musty perfume filled his nose as the volunteers slopped hot mush into his Styrofoam bowl, and it took only an instant for him to realize: that was her perfume. Memories flitted before his eyes like butterflies -- once beautiful, but now nothing more than black and white daguerreotypes: ancient and filled with gray – so, so much gray. His mind numbed as he slid his food along the cold, gray railing, grabbed a plastic fork, and headed to the nearest table. He sat alone, and that suited him just fine right now.

He could still smell the perfume – who was wearing that? He wanted to embrace her, slap her, and cry with her. They would go away – no matter where – just away from this bitter, dreary place that had sustained his life for so long. It was a shame, really. He spooned some of the mush into his mouth and chewed, chastising himself for being so selfish. He was lucky to be here, lucky to be eating at all, and too old for any of that fantastical nonsense, anyway.

A Christmas tree stood in front of him, seeming to taunt him with its “fa-la-la.” In fact, “fa-la-la” was being imposed everywhere, from the Santa hats on the volunteers, to the ribbons decorating each chair, to the cheesy candy-cane centerpieces on the tables. He didn’t care if it made him seem like the Grinch: “fa-la-la” was nothing more than children’s dreams hanging on the eaves outside in the form of icicles: pretty to look at, but too cold to ever amount to anything.

An old woman, about his age, with snow-white hair and mismatched plaid attire suddenly appeared on the other side of the table. She smiled a huge, beautiful smile, announcing, “I just can’t wait for the next season! Brrrrr!” as she sat down. She proceeded to begin to eat zealously, yet not impolitely, and kept smiling – a drastic change from the typical diner at the shelter.

He watched her for a few minutes, thinking. She reminded him of something, but he couldn’t put his finger on it. Then it hit: spring would come. The icicles would melt into pools of glass-like water, transforming the unrealistic dreams into a substance that, though slightly altered, could actually help the world grow. It was unrealistic to chase after the smell of an old perfume, expecting to find caring mothers, sisters, and loves lost on the spritzing end of the bottle, for they were all long gone. However, spring was right before him, even though it was still Christmas Eve outside.

He didn’t really smile – that was a mannerism that had long ago become more and more forced, and had finally been abandoned for good. However, his eyes did glisten as he replied, “Me too. I mean, I can’t wait for spring to come… luckily, it’s not too far off.”




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