It's a funny thing.
I spent so much time working on making sure I was a stinking mess that I never thought about things like showers or clean clothes. Everything was about keeping people away. Keeping other kids away. Keeping teachers away. Keeping my aunt away. I loved my stink.
If I was walking to school and saw a puddle in a gross alleyway, I laid in it so that the entire front of my shirt and pants were soaked with rancid water. If I saw shit, I stepped in it.
More than once, they made me see a social worker, and I've heard the words "personal hygiene" more times than there are kids in my school. I told them all the same thing.
I love my stink.
Now, standing in the middle of a forest with my ripped and crusted t-shirt, dirt-encrusted jeans, and greasy, itchy hair, all by myself, I wanted nothing more than to take a nice long shower.
Now, it seemed like my stink might get me killed.
I looked around me. Other than the narrow dirt road, there was only dense forest around me. I had no idea how far we'd gone off the highway to reach this point or if anyone else ever drove in this direction. The roadway was little more than a path. So I wasn't sure anyone would even come by. And if they did, how was I to know that they weren't the ones looking to eat me?
Still, I had nowhere else to go, so I started to walk down the road, but only took a few steps before I realized that the sharp rocks would tear up the soles of my feet. Did they expect me to stand there and wait for...whatever it was?
I looked up at the trees. Some were huge, but others were smaller, younger ones—the kind I could climb. I figured that would be safer than just waiting, so I went to the closest one and lifted myself onto one of the thick, low-hanging branches. Then I pulled myself higher and higher again until I was thirty or forty feet off the ground. Of course, I couldn't see very far with all the massive trees, but at least I felt safe.
I started shivering in the breeze—or from the fear, I couldn't tell which. I had no plan. I had nowhere to go. Even if I did, I had no shoes anymore, and I didn't think I would get anywhere in my bare feet.
I sat up in the branches for most of the day until the sun started heading toward the horizon. I was pretty sure I wouldn't last all night. I was sitting on a thick branch, but if I fell asleep, I was pretty sure I would be bashed up and probably die from the fall.
Then, I heard the brush rustle below me, some distance away. Something was moving in my direction, slowly and cautiously. Starting and stopping. I'd seen lions on television stalking prey once. They would move slowly, freeze, then move again, waiting for the right moment to pounce.
I saw a figure shrouded entirely in a dark, ragged cloak move into the clearing just below the tree I was in. He (or she, I couldn't see any features) paused.
I held my breath, hoping they wouldn't spot me.50Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ5ZERq73WJF
But they didn't need to.
They sniffed the air.
My stink gave me away.
They began to gaze upward into the tree.
50Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡDuCGQtiwjZ