It Started Innocently Enough

9 Mar

It started innocently enough.

It was my 4th birthday. My Aunt Lucy gave me a Winnie the Pooh coloring book and an 18-pack of Mr. Sketch scented markers.

At the time, the latter was the greatest gift I had ever received. Sure, you could draw with Mr. Sketch markers—on the walls, on your face, even on construction paper—just like regular markers. But they were so much more than regular markers.

Because they smelled.

They smelled like apples and blueberries; like licorice and cinnamon; like mint and banana split; like oranges, peaches, watermelons, cherries, raspberries, lemons, mangos, grapes, and tropical punch; like cotton candy and bubble gum;  and, yes, there was even one that smelled like blueberry slushy (which is, of course, an entirely different scent from plain old blueberry).

I instantly fell in love with the magical aromas of Mr. Sketch. I quickly gave up my other hobbies of building with wooden blocks and cutting my sister’s hair, so as to make more time in my day for the markers—just them and me, alone in the corner, sniffing away.

Sometimes, if I was lucky, I would come across a pack of Skittles. And do you know what I would do? That’s right. I would eat a cherry-flavored Skittle, while simultaneously sniffing the cherry-scented marker—and, boy oh boy, it was just like eating an actual cherry!!

Reflecting upon this utopia, I can say without a doubt in my mind, that age 4 was the greatest year of my life.

That is… until, one afternoon, my mom wanted to see what kind of progress I’d made with the coloring book.

Now, naturally, after the first day or two, I hadn’t spent that much time actually filling in the black-and-white contours of Tigger or Piglet. I had no time for that coloring business, let alone Eeyore’s negative energy; it was such a wasteful use of the markers’ precious ink. No, I had no use for that. I just sniffed.

But when my mother discovered this, and when she looked at me and noticed my rainbow-colored nose, she grew worried. And then she did the unthinkable.

She took away my markers. All 18 of them.

I was devastated. I cried myself to sleep that night, and the night after that.

I went into withdrawal.

Not knowing what to do, I started searching for a replacement. Crayola was of no use, neither in the crayon department nor with colored pencils. Watercolors were a joke. Scratch-n-sniff stickers held me over for a bit, but they really couldn’t compare to Mr. Sketch.

It wasn’t long before I grew curious…

What did other markers smell like??

Within weeks, I had tried them all: dry erase and permanent; highlighting and metallic; water-based and solvent-based; wedge tip and ultra-fine; retractable and otherwise. If it secreted its own ink through porous fibers, my nose needed to get acquainted with it.

Of course, nothing came close to matching the fruit-fragrance splendor of Mr. Sketch. But, to my surprise, I discovered that some of them—yes, some of them—were even better.

It sounded blasphemous, I knew. I felt unfaithful to Mr. Sketch. And yet, there was something about these other markers that was strangely more thrilling than the smell of artificial food. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but also I couldn’t resist.

Before long, I started to develop a deep and passionate love affair with another brand:

Sharpie showed me the world in a whole new light. I felt invincible—like I could kick a kickball 20 million feet or go surfing on a stegosaurus or eat an entire box of Legos. I became the world’s greatest wizard, capable of summoning Bugs Bunny to appear in my sock drawer or making the toaster oven float and dance with the spatulas, bouncing amid neon swirls to the theme from Chiddy Chiddy Bang Bang.

I was in love like never before.

And so, for my 5th birthday, I asked for just one thing: a jumbo pack of extra-thick Sharpie markers.

“Oh sweetie,” my mother said. “Sharpies aren’t for little boys.”

And the next day, with her suspicions raised, my mother confiscated every last marker in the house.

I had been foiled again. I didn’t know what to do. This time, the withdrawal was worse than before. Frantically, I started sniffing everything I could get my hands on, desperate to find something—anything—that could take the place of Sharpie and Mr. Sketch. I sniffed couch cushions and VHS tapes, Hotwheels and used sponges, kitty litter and car tires. Nothing was good enough.

One day, my school teacher called home to tell my parents that I had been “rubbing my nostrils on the carpet” and “sniffing the contents of children’s backpacks” and that I had been “caught with a piece of chalk up my nose during recess.” My parents informed my teacher of what had been going on around the house, and, sure enough, Mrs. Sulick decided it best if she hid all of her markers, too.

It seemed as if all hope was lost.

But then, just before I turned 6, I found a temporary solution in household cleaners—namely Mr. Clean, 409, and Windex. I had a good run on those for three months… and then my father found me in the bathroom, passed out on the floor with a bottle of Spray ‘N Wash.

I was sinking to new lows. But I couldn’t stop. In kindergarten, a friend introduced me to Elmers. In 1st grade, I grew tired of Elmers and moved on white out. And from there, I made the logical jump up to super glue and rubber cement.

Super glue was a good go-to for a couple years, and I had learned how to be careful around my parents and teachers. But then, when I was at a Brett Mackey’s house, I accidentally got the bottle too close to my nose, and the tip got stuck inside my right nostril, and my parents had to come and take me to the hospital to have the bottle surgically removed.

They were not pleased.

And, honestly, neither was I.

When I got home from the ER that night, I told myself that was the end of it. The last straw.

I meant it. I wanted out. I was done.

“Never again,” I said. “Never again.”

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

I have been successful in keeping this promise to myself for 42 years. And it’s been a good 42 years at that.

But now—yes, at this very moment—I fear my resolve will once again be put to the test.

You see, as I’m sitting here at my desk, taking my lunch break as the recently hired inventory assistant for OfficeMax, I can’t help but notice the orange warning labels on this new shipment of keyboard gas dusters.

– FakeCakes


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