“You are either a missionary or an imposter” – Charles Spurgeon
I most distinctly remember the smell of cigarettes.
I smelled it on the older man I met in the nursing home. A whiff from the neighbor lady who yelled a lot. That section of the restaurant we avoided. And John-John.
I met John-John the day our moving truck pulled up to our tiny mustard yellow house on the dead-end road a few hundred yards from Chesapeake Bay. You could always smell the brackish water full of blue crabs, just waiting to be drenched in some Old Bay seasoning. In the distance, the ghosts of the eastern shore rose slightly above the waterline.
It was another sticky summer day. But our new window air conditioner made my nose tingle when I pressed my face up against the vents. Life was good.
Word had spread rapidly among the local collection of children that a new family was unloading their earthly belongings. The little girls with blonde pigtails from next door ran over to see the new family with three brown-headed boys. A metal gate conveniently connected our back yards. The two boys with jet-black hair across the street grabbed their yo-yos, jumped on their new bikes and pulled up to our white picket fence and stared awkwardly, waiting for an invitation to test out our massive back yard, at least for six-year-old eyes.
Somehow John-John made his way to our house that day too.
I’ll never forget him.
He snorted in some snot, and told me his dad sold candy and ice cream, if I ever wanted some.
John-John smelled like cigarettes.
He was only seven, and a little chubby. He had his Mom’s face and his Dad’s eyes – firy and fierce. He could pierce you with those eyes when he was steaming angry. That happened a lot.