His middle name was something Italian, and those dark tresses draped him like a morose cloud. He was introduced to her as “my hairy castoff brother.” They had caught him smoking out front of the local pizza joint, and she’s not sure what all was in the cigar. Those hooded eyes, they were shot through with veins, like faults in the earth or lightning.
“Did you know your nose is connected to your tongue?” Teacher said.
I doubted it until I read about the high iron levels of peas, my most hated vegetable. I then understood the childhood of running from green kitchen smells and ladles of good-for-yous. Only cannibals sniff blood cooking in a pot and smile when their molars grind the soft skulls, tasting red.
I began to believe it when my sister whispered the name of her secret crush, and I smelled the skating rink where I first held a boy’s hand. It tasted of breadsticks, cigarettes, and the green chemical in glow sticks.
But true belief came when I tumbled in the sea and breathed salt and whalebones.
“Did you know your taste buds fortify memories more solidly than sight?” Teacher said.
I believed it, biting into a pumpkin chip muffin and spiraling back to a laughing lunchroom and children with chocolate in their teeth. “Your mom’s the best cook ever,” my friends squealed over Lisa Frank lunchboxes. “Happy birthday.”
I believed it when I swilled down honeyed chai tea. Unbothered by adult matters, my best friend and I drank like adults, Austenian-style, and dizzied ourselves with the syrupy dregs at the bottom of our mugs. We read our fairy tales best that way. Together and wordless, with tea.
Doubts came when the sight of you flooded me more than a taste, a smell. As layered as old earth like ours is, we only mine diamonds with the brightest faces. Cold and hard and admirable.
Student asked, “If I flew to the moon and smelled the air, do you think I’d remember it better than Neil Armstrong?”
“There is, silly child, no air to be had,” Teacher said. “The moon has no atmosphere.”
Student asked, “What if I licked the moon instead?”
“Imagine,” Teacher said. “Forever by the dark side of the moon… by the world-famous boot-print… a tongue-print! What funny lines. What tiny bumps! How silly for your children’s children to see! Don’t you think?”
“I think,” Student said, “they’d want to know what it tasted like.”