1.1.1. Drifting Aromas

The light is barely present through the thick white shutters of the hotel room window. It comes in on thin beams like trails of cloud from an airplane, they reveal acrobatics of dust and fall uncomfortably in the corners of Mrs. Palomar's clenched eyelids. Mrs. Palomar is trying to fall asleep. She has been trying to fall asleep for several hours now, since the low growling and bubbling of Mr. Palomar's nose and throat awakened her abruptly from the early, faint throes of slumber. Since then, she has been unable to prevent the persistent, cacophonous snarl from causing the vibration of the cilia of her ear canals in a most intrusive fashion. Over the course of the tortuous hours, Mrs. Palomar has perceived over forty-seven distinct snore sounds, each with their own particular rhythm and cadence. Some start strong and deep, perhaps in Mr. Palomar's toes or the pit of his stomach. She can hear the rumbly beginnings of these, then the volcanic rollings of them up the sticky sides of Mr. Palomar's trachea and out the flapping gaps of his nostrils. Other snores begin high and unsure, as if they might peter out into nothingness. These give Mrs. Palomar a false hope that causes her tired heart to break again and again. Once in a while Mr. Palomar coughs and sputters a bit, like their car that almost died yesterday on the autostrada, on the first day of their vacation, 60 kilometers from the hotel.

Mrs. Palomar has employed a number of methods to attempt the prevention of this intrusion. She has clutched the musty, bulbous hotel pillow at either end and held it taut over her head, only to find that feather and cotton is easily permeated by the lurking groan of Mr. Palomar's snore. She has rotated her body 180 degrees in order that her head might rest at the opposite end of the Palomar vacation bed, only to find that the distance of a few feet made the growling more resonant and eerie in the bare room. She has positioned herself under the Palomar vacation bed, to discover that not only did Mr. Palomar's snoring make the entire bed vibrate continuously, but that this vibration caused dust bunnies of various lengths and thicknesses to dance wantonly over the wood floor, causing Mrs. Palomar to sneeze uncontrollably--a fact, I might add, which Mrs. Palomar vainly hoped would wake her husband from his clamorous slumber and allow her to rest in peace. Having failed in all these worthy attempts, Mrs. Palomar now clamps her eyelids closed against the rising morning, fists over her ears, wishing she could shut off certain of her senses like a faucet.

Along these lines, Mrs. Palomar decides that the most worthwhile endeavor for her to make at this point is to concentrate on the four senses she has other than hearing, so that she might forget entirely that she is trying not to hear at all. Her body is so exhausted and numb that she can feel almost nothing, only the vague tickling of the air from Mr. Palomar's nose against her shoulder. Eyelids clenched shut, she sees nothing but the blurred explosions of color caused by the presence of light against one's closed eyes. They are like fireworks, and watching them she feels like a child, tries to remember the grass under her bare thighs and the smell of roasting sausages at the carnivals of her youth. Strangely, she can smell the sausages, can almost taste them, the greasy sweet meat is so real against the hairs of her nostrils. Mrs. Palomar begins to move her jaw in a consumptive motion, gnawing on the thick morning air in the room and imagining the fat dripping down her chin.

Soon Mrs. Palomar realizes that the smell she perceives is indeed real, that there are sausages roasting somewhere nearby, perhaps in the bar shoved between their hotel and the Museum of Medieval Torture next door. The window above the Palomar bed is slightly ajar, letting the perfumed air float in over their heads and into Mrs. Palomar's now willfully hypersensitive nasal canals. She concentrates her olfactory nerves and soon begins to distinguish the smell of frying eggs and potatoes, soon the charred, grainy aroma of burning toast. Over it all a salty, fresh sea fragrance is large and open, as the ocean itself is visually vast and dominant in the landscape that Mrs. Palomar will, should she choose ever to open her eyes and surrender this newfound sense of smell, see out the window.

Mrs. Palomar begins to detect a faint sour odor from the direction of Mr. Palomar's gaping mouth. It mingles with the roasting sausages in a most unpleasant manner, disrupting Mrs. Palomar's reverie and reminding her of the snores, which continue their relentless drumming against her brain. She begins to realize that in fact there are very few distinctions among the senses, that it is supremely difficult to distinguish them in one's own mind. Sensory experience, she thinks, is almost entirely involuntary; I have little or no control over what or how I feel. Admitting defeat, and attempting to escape this frightening conclusion, Mrs. Palomar gets out of bed and goes downstairs to have breakfast.

1.2.2. On the Carousel

Meet Mrs. Palomar