Pennies. That was it. He smells like pennies.
After working with this regular patron for weeks, I finally figured it out today, with that strange exultation of now knowing the recently-unfamiliar. Though I do not know exactly how pennies smell like pennies.
People smell like pennies and erasers and campfires, ask for the same photo over and over again, or lose a train of thought in the middle of a sentence and stand like a suddenly-reformatted robot before me. People call me stately honorifics or ask me to play poker with them or wonder earnestly if they can come over to my house on my day off “to make love”. Sometimes people ask for actual library materials. Sometimes, like last Friday in the first-floor men’s restroom, people die.
I know less than I ever have, and I am more certain of brevity, of kindness, and of the pricelessness of hope.