One cultivates certain smells

Flanking on both sides of the building are two dump trucks hunched by garbage bags. The rain felt like needles. Behind the desk, a security guard sat still, head bobbing from sleep. Then the smell wafted in waves. It took me back to my elementary school right next to a church, in an old building rumored to be an old cemetery. It had brick columns. In between the segregated restrooms was a bulletin board with tacked notes about the Marianettes Club, among other clubs. Situated nearby were benches smothered with those beady black pebbles, and a tiny sink jammed against one of those brick columns, probably built for hand washing. The boys' restroom smelled like grouts turned yellow-green by moss and urine; the dampness of a mop which never saw the light of the day, that mop leaning against the wall of the farthest of cubicles; and polished marble tiles, pale and wet and gleaming from the light that made its way in through a small window. Now I can hear my school shoes squeak against the slippery floor. I can hear the tap water running, echoing from the farthest cubicle, where the janitor, Mang Domeng, squeezes the mop tight with his hands, the way we squeeze sponges while washing the dishes. Outside, the afternoon light; the flagpole flanked by two towering Indian trees, a basketball court, the entire quadrangle and the stage and the grotto framed with birds of paradise and other flowers. In my school uniform I would grab the familiar grooved handle of my stroller, the kind of handle which always twists and wobbles and disintegrates so often. I would drag my stroller across the quadrangle towards the entrance of the school, where our tricycle driver, Mang Gil, is waiting to fetch us home.