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Remembering Who We Used To Be

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When Michael asked Lincoln his favorite smell once, Lincoln chose vanilla, because it reminded him of their mother.

Michael thinks their mother used to wear a light, flowery perfume, and he hopes he will find it again one day and remember. What stays in his mind instead is the memory of chemicals and death, and he is always a little bit nervous in the infirmary when the combination of disinfectant and rubbing alcohol hits him. He gets that urge to bolt every time, and he tries to bury it with nonchalance or stoicism. If that doesn’t work, he finds himself starting to babble and he knows he’s not making the best impression.

Michael’s favorite smell was the shaving cream Lincoln used in high school. The bathroom would be steamy with it in the mornings, and he inhaled it— confidence, manliness, the mysterious things that older kids always knew about. At night, when he was alone and it seemed like Lincoln was never coming home, Michael would sneak into his room and press his face into his pillow, breathing in security and belonging.

One night Lincoln came in late, his clothes reeking of marijuana. Michael had been around it before at school, but it brought out a rage in him then that he hadn’t known he possessed. Years later in college, he would suffer from the “good-boy” label each time he walked away when his friends broke out the baggies. Pot had taken Lincoln away from him when he needed him most. The hell if Michael was going to let it get inside his own soul.

Here in Fox River, Lincoln no longer smells like Lincoln. Michael imagines they are all pretty much the same, even himself, uniformly covered with an overlay of sweat and harsh soap and cheap shampoo.

That will be remedied soon enough when they got out, and they can work their way slowly back toward individuality.

Michael misses the way Lincoln used to smell, and all of the feelings it carried. But it’s a small thing, compared to what worries him most.

After years of drugs and prison, and all this time close to the edge on Death Row, what Michael wonders is this:

Inside, is Lincoln still Lincoln anymore?

 

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