This is not a metaphor for anything. I am talking about a very real pungency. Smashed yellow cherries on the concrete sidewalk. It’s check-the-bottom-of-your-shoe season, it’s did-I-step-in-dog-poop season, it’s no-you-didn’t season: it’s Gingko Season.
It’s that one spring in Brooklyn where we finally discovered that the Chinese restaurant on the corner had been using the construction dumpster by our house to get rid of their old fry oil, mouldering baby corn, yellowed tofu corners, slimy strips of chicken fat.
You can’t call 311 on a tree.
It’s the constant whiff of judgment: who threw up here? It’s the smell of some young person’s humiliation: partially-digested macaroni and cheese soaked through with liquor and bile. It would not be an exaggeration to say I always gag when walking under a gingko tree. It would not be an exaggeration to say that I almost always automatically ‘tsk’ when walking under a gingko tree. Its effects are both physiological and psychological.
There is no solution to this problem except to be glad that gingko trees are one of my problems. And anyway, gingko season doesn’t last long: soon the cold air will take the edge off the stench, soon the pulpy sidewalks will be layered over with snow. Soon enough, I could live somewhere else entirely. The gingkos would still be here, steady canopies with a million little fluttering leaf fans. The gingkos would still be here, obstinately performing their ritual above our heads.
Olivia Dunn is a Visiting Professor of English at Skidmore College and a graduate of the Nonfiction Writing Program at the University of Iowa. Her work has appeared recently in The Pinch Journal, SHANTIH Journal, Tinker Street, The Nervous Breakdown, River Teeth, and McSweeney’s.