He pushes the oversized box to the register as I fall in behind him, clutching an armful of items not quite worthy of a shopping cart, but a bit too numerous to hold comfortably. He’s dressed in green scrubs and white tennis shoes, a man of maybe 35. As I struggle to hold my items, I catch a scent I’m all too familiar with.
Spearmint and Hospital.
Not the reheated food smell, the smell of sickness, or the stale air usually associated with a hospital. The sterile, clean, almost undetectable smell of the Operating Room that only a few would recognize.
The smell of my dad.
It’s strange how something as simple as a smell can lift you out of reality, which for me was a rainy morning in the checkout line at Lowes, and put you somewhere completely different for awhile.
I’m sitting at the kitchen table in our house in Warner Robins when I hear the distinct jingle of his keys. Our dog, Miss Lolly, always gets to him first and he bends down to pet her. As he walks around the corner, his white coat is draped over his green scrubs.
“Hey, Miss Ash.”
He clutches a metal briefcase that’s got dents in it from many years of use. He walks over and bumps the top of my head with his forehead, our version of a hug. That familiar smell of spearmint and hospital washes over me.
It’s a smell that I didn’t realize I had missed until a complete stranger reminded me. I picture myself dropping all of my items and running to wherever he is right then.
When he’s dressed in scrubs and his white coat, I always wonder if I’ll ever be as proud of anyone as I am of him. I wonder what it’s like to be that smart. That needed. I wonder what Nini and Granddaddy think when they see him like that, their barefoot son raised in a modest white house 8 miles outside of Butler – a doctor. A brilliant, humble, kindhearted doctor.
“Oh. Yeah? Sorry,” I say, as I surface back into reality, realizing the man in green scrubs is talking to me.
“She’ll take you on register 4,” he says with a grin.
“Oh. Okay,” I say, eyes pointed downward to hide my cheeks that have since flushed red.
As I walk over to the neighboring register, the cashier giggles.
“You in another world today?”
“Something like that,” I say quietly.