Why Did Katie Beth Cross the Tennis Courts? True Accounts of Noses and Septembers
There is a certain uncertainty in reading my schedule for the Fall 2011 Semester at East Tennessee State University and seeing that my soon-to-be German Level 2 class is located in the Mountain States Health Alliance Athletic Center. “There is nothing athletic about learning German,” I think it to myself as I begin my descent up the stairs that lead from the parking lot to the road I will cross to eventually enter the Mountain States Health Alliance Athletic Center, which we will now be calling the Mini-Dome because it is shorter and sounds less daunting - less macho health gods and goddesses and more woodland animal-friendly. There is an athlete walking in front of me, I am sure of it. He has on swishy-swish shorts and an ETSU Tennis t-shirt, a veritable armor to endure the hours he must have just logged jogging around campus. He looks sweaty, he looks svelte, and most importantly, he looks like he knows what he is doing, and that he comes here often.
I had already decided to enter the first door I saw, but at this point I was more so halfway following this sporty human. The door opens and Sporty Human walks in. I follow suit, totally nonchalant. Immediately I am hit with a wave of nausea as I reminisce back to my own gym-Dome at Dobyns-Bennett High School. The same smell creeps up from the brown sweat-glazed concrete floor and I suddenly feel completely and utterly out of shape. After a bit of walking up the halls, glancing side-to-side at the white-toothed grins of framed athletic faces, and sudden stomach panic, I see an opening out into the main floor of the Mini-Dome. There are three sections guarded off by big blue tarp-looking curtains. Directly ahead of me are the indoor tennis courts. I think to myself, and because I often think in third person, “Why did Katie Beth cross the tennis courts?” It seemed funny at the time. I look both ways and begin to walk. German class is not so bad. Since it started, I have made some average grades with a few good homework A’s peppered around, which is somewhat promising. I even feel like I am making new friends. Just the other day, I had on a great navy blue Bon Iver t-shirt, which is my favorite music to listen to, and this kid beside me asked about it. On this day, I once again crossed the tennis courts, this time heading the other way. Once I make it across and back out into the outside it is always a nice walk, one of those good thinking walks where you make glazed eye contact with fellow backpack comrades who are headed in the opposite direction. The sun might be teeter-tottering its heat between summer and fall - causing the campus outfits to look entirely bipolar - but I swear I smell fall. I swear I smell the leather in the boots being worn and I swear I smell the musky heft of leaves turning their shade from Granny Smith to Macintosh.
So it is on this thinking walk that I think about the season of September. I got to thinking about my t-shirt that my fellow German class dweller asked about and I got to thinking about an old friend who liked the same music that was written across it. I had not seen this old friend in a year and then I went to eat lunch with my mom at a place that I had heard good things about. So we eat there and I bring in some German homework to muddle over. Once lunch is over and I have taken all the Deutsch one can take, I pack up all my papers and pens and pink highlighters and as we walk out, there is that old friend standing at the area designated for placing orders. It was weird. And I do not mean the part of weird that is associated with just slightly off-centered things, I mean the second and third parts of the definition that, according to the North American Encarta Dictionary are defined as “2. Supernatural: belonging to or suggesting the supernatural or 3. Of Fate: relating to or influenced by fate.”
It was even weirder when I considered that I had met my old friend, back when he was not my old friend, on a day in September in a sandwich lunch place two years ago. It smelled almost the same, but just enough to be different- maybe they use different bread than the place where I first met my old friend, but at any rate, it was second and third parts weird.
He asked me if I had lost weight, I told him I figured I had just grown up. He said he found that hard to believe. He said other things, I am sure of it. He said things to my mom, he said things about sandwiches, he said things about life goals, he said things about how are you and how is everyone else, and he said things about living with Hannah. “Oh yeah, Hannah is his girlfriend,” said the remembering part of my brain to the forgetting part of my brain. Although, to be honest with you, and I want to be honest with you, I had not forgotten that information, not really anyway. It just got stored up in brain cells somewhere, big ones I figure at first that had to get progressively smaller and smaller. In case you have never had some endearing crush on someone, that is what has to happen when the person picks up and moves away and has some girl named Hannah. Your brain cells that crushed on the guy just get smaller and smaller, small enough to pack away somewhere up there. Sure as hell does not mean they go away, but instead they are neatly rolled up like trouser socks in an old leather suitcase – good looking trouser socks that might have fit pretty nice if you had only tried them on. I wonder now if maybe these hypothetical and metaphorical socks would not have fit back then, since I apparently have lost enough weight for it to be immediately noticed and mentioned by someone who has not seen me in a whole year’s time- too chubby for trouser socks.
Seeing an old friend/crush is not so bad. Despite the fact that I thought he looked exactly the same, the same Santa-like twinkle around the irises of his eyes, I tried to ignore it, tried to ignore the unrolling of a trouser sock. I suppose it does not really matter. Maybe it does. At the risk of making an obscure metaphor, it is a lot like having a German class in an Athletic center. Honestly it makes so little sense that it makes perfect sense, some odd little fated occurrence in life that makes you slowly realize that, despite being worried about getting hit by would-be balls on your journey to a class that gives you a nervous feeling, you have to cross the tennis courts anyway. You have to walk across, you have to log the pen-hours and scribbles over a language you are trying desperately to learn, and you have to get the credit to graduate with a shiny degree. I meant to research what it is about noses and smells that draw in so many memories, but I realized that is not really the mystical question at play here. Rather, the big weird web is the fact that my nose seems to know more than I do. My nose, in accordance with my memories, brought me right back around to where I was before in Two Years Ago September. My nose must have known it was September, it must have known the place where my old friend worked, and it must have said “Hey, watch this,” to my eyes as it lead me to that place and they both sat back and watched.
The whole thing makes me think of my little brown dog and dogs in general who go around smelling everything, remembering every smell they have smelt and locking and loading the information for smells yet-to-be. I have always figured that dogs are wiser than us humans, and now I know, because if the part of my face that sticks out the most is somehow leading me around, into uncomfortable, dumbing, fated little twists and turns, I feel pretty okay about it. So to answer our posed question, Katie Beth crossed the tennis courts to get to German class where she wore a t-shirt that made her think of an old friend who she ended up seeing. Or better yet, Katie Beth crossed the tennis courts because her nose told her to and she does not care one bit how crazy that sounds, because it is somehow comforting. I might have no idea why my class is in a gym or why I saw that old friend/crush, but maybe my nose does - or something like that.
Have a nice weekend.