I walked down to the waterfront tonight. I haven't done that in a while. Last year, when I was unemployed, I walked down there often, because I had to get out of the house somehow, and I didn't have money to spend. I watched a lot of sunsets over downtown.
As I walked along the esplanade tonight, there was a cloud of smoke in front of me. It didn't smell like anything by the time I got up there, though, so I didn't think much of it. I assumed someone had done something involving smoke and then walked away.
Soon thereafter, I stopped at a railing at a good turnaround point. There was a firefighter peering over the railing (just in a t-shirt, not in gear), and I realized that he was looking for the source of the smoke.
I started walking back, partly following the guy out of curiosity. The smoke was more clearly a column now. Looking over the edge when I got there, I saw something smoldering in the brush. The firefighter was climbing down around the end of the railing.
Another firefighter passed me as I turned to go. "Garbage," he said. "Smells bad, doesn't it?"
I smiled at him, but what I was really thinking is how familiar it smelled. We burned our garbage in Liberia and in Rwanda. I know that smell, and it feels like home.
(Side story that I may have told before: I was at a music festival during my college years. It was very hot, and things sometimes got thrown on the ground and trampled. At one point I sniffed the air and said, "Ah. Smells like rotting garbage in the hot sun. I remember that smell from Liberia. It smells like home." One of the people I was with said, "Don't you think it's a little messed up if a smell like that makes you feel at home?" But I do not, in fact, think that is messed up. I never have.)
Walking back along the water, I thought of a conversation I had with my mom last summer, while I was unemployed, about how things could change at any time but it's really hard to enjoy all the free time of unemployment when you don't know when it will change.
But change it did, and it's all so different now. I have a job that I love, I just agreed to buy a car that won't make me feel like a bug about to get squashed on the highway, and a cute boy brings me turron from Spain. If I could tell the me of a year ago how it turned out, she never would have believed it could be this good.