by Lou Morin
TRIAL SIX: The Boy Who was Stronger Than Four Men
I never had the pleasure of knowing the scent of my baby. I remember placing my nose on his small head, closing my eyes, and inhaling deeply, imagining how wonderful he might smell. I see his dark clockwise cowlick—the tenacious whorl that announced his entry into the world—as the centre of the universe. He certainly is the centre of ours—this little miracle who proved the doctors wrong after they informed me it would be near impossible to conceive a child, given my crippled endocrine system.
In an odourless world I found my way as a parent. Where others use scent to register their babies as close and safe, I instinctively developed the habit of placing my hand on his head to check in. In this way I was assured all was right. Because my other senses have overcompensated since I lost my sense of smell, I rarely missed detecting his overripe diapers. My enhanced faculties served me well as a new mother. So acute was my hearing that, when resting at home with our newborn, I knew the phone was ringing even with the volume turned off. I hadn’t as yet discovered I could detect emotional odours.
Our boy soon displayed superpowers of his own. For one, he has a remarkable gift for articulating ideas. On Christmas morning of his fifth year, he settled in front of the tree to gaze at the lights and ponder. After some time, he announced: “Mommy, the black hole is the donation box of the universe.” His astute analogies continue to amaze me. He recently compared a bad romantic comedy I was watching to white bread that’s been in the freezer for too long.
Evin has grown into a six-foot tall, sixteen year-old version of his former smaller self. He skateboards, sketches, sets things on fire and aspires to be an inventor. Crossing his bedroom is a perilous venture, given the floor is littered with the discarded corpses of dissected electrical flotsam, dollar store lighters, mechanical pencils and crumpled paper fragments bearing ciphers. His detailed accounts of vaudevillian school exploits offer me the privilege of seeing boyhood through his eyes, a vantage point I never had while growing up. My two brothers, six and fourteen years my junior, chose not to divulge their schoolyard antics to their four older sisters. We Morin girls formed a formidable phalanx.
While the visuals drawn by my son’s stories give me endless joy, they evoke similarities that point to our kinship. His father, an artist, isn’t prone to accidental scientific trials. Evin’s tales, on the other hand, follow in the tradition of the aforementioned Tom Tit, begging epic titles like The Exploding Pen—the time in elementary school he reacted to discipline by nervously chewing on a pen, precipitating a teacher’s note. “Description of Inappropriate Behavior: Was spraying other students with water and when asked to stop he then chewed on a pen until it exploded, creating another distraction.” I treasure that ink-splattered piece of paper, still posted on our fridge.
The Amazing Anti-gravity Ball was a spectacular demonstration of bad karma payback. In this episode, a kid grabbed a ball from one of Evin’s friends during gym class and walked away with it. My son discouraged his friend from trying to retrieve it, reassuring him it would work itself out. The offender then threw the ball, setting off a Rube Goldbergian sequence that caused it to ricochet off a bench and bounce straight back at his head. After hitting its target, said ball fell to the floor, headed back to where the boys were sitting, and rolled to a stop. “See?” Evin said to his friend, “What goes around comes around.”
On the day of The Leaping Electric Arc, he spent an entire grade 8 science lesson distractedly playing with a plasma globe at the back of the classroom, unknowingly transforming himself into a human battery. Later in the hallway when he leaned over to drink from a fountain, an electrostatic charge coursed through the water from his mouth across to the metal spout, throwing him backward and rightly stunning a younger student who was lucky enough to bear witness.
At the start of grade 10, Evin was taunted by a pack of sophomoric boys who briefly underestimated him. But The Human Soccer Ball incident quickly earned him immunity from high school bullying. On this occasion, he saw a kid in gym class tossing a deflated soccer ball into a garbage can. Not one to embrace contact sports, Evin knows nonetheless what to do with a ball. In one deft movement, he intercepted the throw, tore open the worn leather orb, and pulled it over his hair. When a fellow student insulted his new hat, he head-butted the boy soccer-style, causing an uproar among his classmates while skyrocketing in status.
His latest experiment, The Human Jack O’ Lantern, begs no explanation. It, too, involved his head.
When he isn’t setting things on fire, Evin works hard at just being a kid. But episodes like these carve out his place at school and a reputation for displaying superhuman abilities, valuable currency in the world of boyhood. We’ve discussed stress scent signals, my son’s take on it being, “Wow, school must stink during finals.” But it was only this year that he thought to describe the aromatic side of life at school—kids who fart in class, putrid lunch artifacts long forgotten in lockers, the overzealous use of Axe aftershave, and general teen smelliness. It never occurred to me to interrupt his monologues and ask, “And how did it smell?”
Which is why I’m always grateful when people mention aromas in passing, reminding me of this vital dimension of human experience—one that unfolds daily before my nose—that I too easily forget exists.
Copyright © Lou Morin, 2015