Four chimes; though the clock is a dozen yards from me and with the house I hear the resonance of its last hammer strike ring over the methodical whiz of meshed gears, marching on, oblivious. My boot soles grind the concrete stoop as I stop to ponder another dawn, my corduroy pants zip along the gravel and mortar until my behind is in place and contently positioned.
The overwhelming sound is of a nearby electrical transformer, one mule in the city’s million mule power grid, humming low and long a monotonous sixty cycle tone. A motorcycle cranks, then starts. By the echo it must be blocks away, a BSA Lightning if I were to guess, with mufflers in serious need of repair and a motor short one quart of oil. A lone bus passes on Lake street, the Chi-Lake number 22, brakes squeaking, engine cover chattering, warming up for one more day of moving the masses.
Two dings; a car has pulled into the Clark Oil station next door, the low thud of its exhaust nearly masking the scraping footsteps of the attendant. “Whaddya have” comes a very sleepy voice followed by a quick “fillerup”. I hear a low pitched slow moving squeak as the pump jockey pries open a rusty gas tank cover, then a clatter of metal on metal as he inserts the nozzle.
“Inside, be right there.”
A car door’s handle is pulled. With a "scree", the door opens and then slams shut. Sneakers shuffle on tar, squeal as the wearer moves from driveway to linoleum flooring. I can hear each pump number click in place as pennies turn to dimes to quarters to dollars and more. With a clink, the pump comes to a stop. At each moment of silence, the drone of the transformer seems to get louder so as to fill the space; rapidly disappearing as the next tone comes into being. A mourning dove coos, answered by the arpeggiated whistle of a tiny goldfinch. Dawn is close, the chatter has begun.
From this spot one can always smell the scent of transportation. Oil and gasoline, exhaust and burnt rubber; the smell of poor men's money being swallowed by the earth. It’s rained recently; mold is in the air, soaking up the life’s blood, cloning itself again and again. Must, and its rank counterpart rot hang loosely near the edge of my building where trash lays piled, having been littered into place by the unthinking and slovenly customers of the nearby business. Still, I’m inundated by the overlying pungent odor of ozone, almost metallic; it's like sticking one’s nose into an old tin can. More rain is coming; the nose knows.
Soon, the reason I’ve made myself stumble outside at this ungodly hour becomes apparent. I close my eyes and slowly breathe in the sweet aroma. It’s warm and heavenly; it pushes aside even the strongest and most noxious smells and replaces them with olfactory ambrosia. I cross my legs, lean back and pace my inhales and exhales, as if I were a machine taking air quality samples, or an automated blacksmith fireplace bellows.
It is 4:15. The Emrich bakery a half block away is now fully engaged in baking the morning’s goods, slipping the finished products into balloon covered plastic bags… but not before the amazing scent of fresh baked bread leaks skyward en masse, and travels downwind; flowing over my tired body like a river of happiness. Senses are only as good as we let them be. Sometimes you just have to give one room to explore on their own.