Weather and beer can incite memories. Last night both were crisp and clear.
At Fordham, a quarter century ago, I lived in a horseshoe-shaped dorm called "Martyr's Court." Only a Jesuit institution could bless a dorm name with connotations of crusading swords and spilled blood.
One cool night, early freshman year, finally away from home, full of potential, full of fear, full of rage, I got blind-eyed drunk. (It was all too easy with the alcohol-happy Jesuits, but as David Carr's happy accountant says, we can't escape our pasts). Returning from the Irish bars on Fordham Road, I spotted a big fat skunk on the grassy knoll of Martyr's Court. Most boys, first time seriously away from home, are trying to get laid. That pursuit doesn't register on this clear Bronx night. I'm on a quest to catch a skunk. It's of course a doomed cause. In the hazy liquor-filled swooning confidence, I proceed anyway, dancing on the light, happy feet we had in those golden days of indestructible youth. I run hard toward the animal, all cocky and blissfully trashed, and stutter-step the skunk into the bushes of Martyr's Court. Way too easy. He's absolutely on his way to being cornered. Nowhere to go. Haha. Asshole. I slow down with small, dirt-kicking steps, enjoying the up-close view of the now confused black and white animal, and believe, foolishly, I've won.
Of course, the carnivorous weasel has the upper hand, has been in the driver's seat all along, from the moment I spotted his furry slink across the already-dewy late night turf.
The skunk composes himself, slowly lifting his head with unmistakable dignity to peer at me, dead on. Beady eyes can't say much, but these mockingly say, "Hey white boy, are you seriously attempting to f-ck with me?"
The tail goes up. Uh-oh. Millions of years of evolution have created a perfect smell bomb assault machine, accurate to 15 feet. Working highly refined muscles to pinch powerful anal scent glands, the fat weasel unleashes with a hissing blast, like a long exhale of steam in an old prewar building in the dead of winter, and it is clear I am totally irretrievably screwed for the next few days. Dickhead move, trying to corner a skunk.
I stunk with the tart musky rotten-eggs burnt-rubberish skunky smell you come across on a country road, only a hundred times worse when you've been personally blasted into a human stinkfest. Damn skunk. Had to throw out my clothes and shower for hours on end. There was no tub of tomato juice to fix the problem nor Ruben Kincaid to beg for donated clothes. I stunk for quite some time.
Try to beat a skunk, and the skunk always wins. He is the Michael Phelps of tail-spraying animals.