As I waited for my frozen sandwich to cook in the microwave, I reached over to the dispenser of hand santizer on the window sill, partook of a bit of it, and rubbed it on my palms and between my fingers. The smell of Purell carried me suddenly to a sidewalk in London.
It was May, but it was cool and comfortable weather. I was about 3 inches shorter and 200 pounds lighter. I had my backpack over my shoulder. The money belt I promised my mother I'd wear was itchy beneath my shirt. I was standing outside a store, marvelling over the fascinating coinage of the island, big thick pound coins like two of our nickels stuck together. The pound coin has a gravity all its own.
I looked up the street, or rather down, since it was on an incline. Part of the street was in shadow, but farther down the sunlight broke through blinding-white. It was late morning. There were a few cars but mostly just pedestrians. I could hear children. Their sound is distinct, like train whistles or blacksmiths' hammers.
I remember not only the sight and feel of the place, but I remember my own thoughts. I had a crush on Becky (again--you'd think I would have learned the first time, two years earlier), but was convinced that she was either taking up with Josh or Mark. Or Nathan. I remember the fear of leaving high school behind being clouded over by the excitement of this current adventure, short-lived but vivid in its experience. I remember feeling very alive, in this moment. The mustard taste of the future was palpable and strong, but savory and very welcome. I seemed to sense the unspoken, unthought realization that the world existed in unknown and vibrant forms outside of the 5 square miles that contained the majority of my life for the 17 1/2 years up to this point. There was so much more to see, so much more to tell. I got a peek behind the curtain. It was exhilarating.
I looked up the street in the other direction, up the hill this time. I felt the breeze blowing past. There was my group, several yards ahead. I shoved the coins in my pocket, and absent-mindedly pulled the travel bottle of Purell from a pocket in my bag. As I walked, I squeezed a drop into my palm, and rubbed it into both hands. I could smell the sharp, clean aroma that briefly filled my nose and disappeared as quickly as the liquid did from my hands.
The microwave buzzer went off. My sandwich was ready. I returned to my downtown office, finding myself taller, heavier, almost 8 years older. Life has transpired since then. I'm still here, though my five square miles has expanded to include the whole of the city. And as I took my sandwich back to my office, shut my door behind me, and turned on some music, I remembered that feeling of infinite possibility, of the lust for new experiences and adventures, and I wondered whatever happened to that.