I BENT over in the shower the other day, and water ran up my nose...
...and without warning, I was plunged forty years into the past.
Did you know that smell is the most primitive of the senses? Scent receptors are tied into some of the oldest parts of the brain, not the ones that deal with respectable rational thought, but the parts from which come emotion and memory, the irrational animal part of us.
The feeling of water up your nose is odd. It almost doesn't seem like a smell, it's more of a physical sensation, and not an especially pleasant one. I think it's happened to me mainly when I was swimming, and I did a dive that was really more than I should have attempted, or tried to do a summersault underwater, or got dunked. I don't swim much nowadays, and my main experiences with water-up-the-schnoz were long ago in childhood. I don't think I've actually had the sensation in several years, until the other day.
When it happened to me in my shower, it triggered instant, overwhelming childhood memories of life at the public swimming pool in the summer: the sting of chlorine in my eyes, and the way it made the sun look unnaturally bright, the way the sun reflected off the water, the salty, yeasty taste of a soft pretzel in my mouth, the tightness of the elastic circlet around my ankle, bearing its tarnished brass pool tag, the funny feeling of the white macerated skin beneath my swimsuit, the cacophony of a hundred kids yelling a hundred different things, the sound echoing off the concrete and the water almost like music, a pleasing, almost pastoral, atonal music found only at swimming pools, a sound unique to the place and time, the background music to being a kid with other kids at the swimming pool in the summer, having fun fun fun on those hot bright days that seemed to go on forever—
It lasted a second, no more, a flood of memories forty years old, triggered by the sensation of water in the nose, that my memory, heedless of my conscious wish, forever associates with being a kid, at the pool, in the summer.