Thursday, December 12, 2013

That Time, When We Were 16

They never talk about the smell or the temperature.

But that was being a teenager. Everything I remember about being a teenager is tinged with two things, the wrong smell and the wrong temperature.

Think about it, every moment of being a teenager was smells and temperature.

You start hanging out with friends, and not in the way that hanging out with friends used to be. It isn't birthday parties around parents, it's spending time with friends alone for the first time.

You go to new places, you go to their homes. And no home smells like your home. And you are never with your parents like it used to be. And they smelled great. They smelled like home. You always had home with you.

But now you are going to new places with new friends because no one keeps their friends from middle school, and you are smelling unfamiliar things.

And it's cold. Or hot. And you can't ever get the temperature right because the cool place to hang out--in your friend's room, or in an abandoned lot, or some half-built home--isn't designed to be warm. It's the room in the basement. It's the room with the sliding glass door that is easy to sneak out of but always lets in too much cold. And it certainly doesn't help that you and your friends are sneaking in and out of the house through that door. And you are leaving to go smoke weed--and that shwag weed smells terrible because it's the weed all the dealers keep for the high schoolers--or drink beer. And the beer is lukewarm or icy cold, and it smells like piss because, who the hell knows what good beer smells like? Probably not stale Coronas that have been hiding in some bush for weeks.

And you keep visiting new places, you meet new people. You get close to people who aren't your family. And they all smell different. For the first time, you hold someone. And you may have bathed recently, but that doesn't matter much because you just discovered deodorant and you don't know how much to put on. Sometimes it is too much--as with the boy's locker room which perpetually smells like body spray, so pungent that it burns your eyes--and other times it is not enough and you awkwardly sit in a car full of your friends, sweating because you didn't layer properly for the weather and the car and now you stink like rotting onions and you hope that the girl who is pressing her body so close to yours doesn't notice that you reek.

But a new body is everything it is cracked up to be. Except they don't tell you that holding someone is really holding another person full of just as many personal hygiene problems as you. They don't smell right. They smell different. And even though you hope that it will all make sense, that the smell with feel like home, you realize that sex and people and bodies aren't about comfort in any way you thought or believed. But it is a body and it feels great. But then it gets too hot and you want to push it away but you never want the other to believe you want anything other than to hold them until eternity. And so you sit under a heavy down blanket sweating furiously and worrying about the breakdown of your deodorant while you uncomfortably shift your position and try to desperately hold onto this moment that isn't right because its too goddamn hot and something doesn't smell quite right.

And the cars. They get you around. But because you are poor and young, the cars don't have adequate heaters or air conditioning. You are never the right temperature. Blasting heat that burns your face and hands while your feet freeze as they are pressed to the floor in a car in the middle of the winter.

Or the summer. It is hot. Too hot. So hot that you stick to the leather chairs and smell cigarette smoke and brown and whatever remains of that fast food you ate three nights ago in that car with your buddy who insists that midnight is the best meal time.

Being a teenager is all about going between one discomforting smell to another and one unbearable temperature to another. Despite it all, you find yourself happier and freer than you have ever been. You find that the world is open. That your friends, despite their stench or their inability to properly control the temperatures and settings of their rooms and their cars, are the best thing that have ever happened to you.

And so you keep seeing them. Keep doing new things. Keep being in new places. And building a new perspective of the world. One where new smells somehow become old smells. Where the discomfort of temperature one day years later suddenly brings you back to that beautiful moment one day in the past where you shared something new with a friend in a time where everything was new. But somehow, you didn't know it then. You let it pass without hesitation.