#12: Faint Grass
Prompt: "Fish Out of Water"
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I’m taking a creative writing class. It’s been a fruitful experience. It’s given me the opportunity to write what another person tells me to write. From their direction, I’m able to pull a story out of myself that I didn’t know was there. This is an exercise I hope to continue.
This week, we were meant to write a prompted piece inspired by the title “Fish Out of Water.” The piece is supposed to be about someone in a new place, a place that feels foreign. I like the idea of sharing with you the work from this class—when appropriate. This kind of writing is very fiction/non-fiction. It’s fiction that, while fiction, is a little real. This is out of the norm for me. I hope you enjoy.
Where I'm from, the smell of grass wafts between houses and through town roads, reaching down street cracks and up pipes. Everywhere, tall grass and brilliant, green trees landscape the area, perfectly placed and expertly crafted. Each spring, corn begins to sprout where the snow fell. It lines the streets for miles with great height, impossible to see through or over, forcing your glance upwards to the sky. At sunset, the view is clear.
Here, the sunset is surrounded by iron and metal with buildings too high to see through or over. The grass that grows was planted here, and while perfectly placed and expertly crafted, our gardeners are not as masterful as earth itself. Its hands that carry vegetables from seed to root, replenishing with each season, are incomparably excellent. They are the original masters. Their blueprint defines ours, but we only copy.
There's no smell of grass here, and I miss it. The freshly chopped and deliciously aromatic presence of grass, the one that pervades my nose every day back home, is replaced here by the smell of plastic, scented trash bags coming undone, and the occasional smoker on the corner. They're reasonable smells for a city atop the earth.
There are many ways to get to know a place. The smell of a new place is often the most recognizable and grounding element. It ensures our familiarity and memory, despite our lack of intention. We don’t force our noses in the air and think, smell, you’ll remember this one day. Rather, the smells sneak in and forces your memory, tunneling you back to the moment, the street corner, the dusty apartment, the nape of their neck.
It had been one month since I smelled fresh grass. I've tried to smell it. I went to the closest park I could find, sat on a patch of it dying, dirtied my pants, and yet the smell never pervaded the way I was used to. Perhaps city grass, even if it’s real, doesn't waft the way country grass does. Perhaps it’s been stomped on and regrown too much to be encouraged to smell. The next day, I tried another park, and there the smell was stronger, but still faint. It kept me company and as the wind blew it blew to me.
The grass here, the way it’s manicured and ignored, it seems as scorned from this area as you are now to me and my memory, a banishment I couldn’t have predicted. One that, here in the once swampy landscape of New York, nature’s grass couldn’t have predicted either. Once present and ever-flowing, now I can barely even remember your smell. Was it always this faint? Did I make your smell up? Did I only assign you such a memorable aroma because I loved you and wanted to specify you and to make you special? Perhaps the grass back home doesn’t waft the way I remember. Perhaps it was always faint.
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