At age 15 David watched his friends burn. He smelt it too. The sorrow, the pain, the ashes. Three weeks later Jay Guthrie died, he smelt it. The agony and the want to give in. His nose remembers the smell of Lauries stump and Kevin's jacket, his nose remembers the sent of hell.
He smells it everywhere. The place where it's most pungent is his tiny cubicle at the insurance firm. Maybe, its because that's where he’s dying— metaphorically— probably— one should never bet on the future.
When Tommy whisks him away from his desk at age 19 and into the ramen place, the smell disappears for a second. Everything moves to fast to notice it but when he leans in to his cold noodles for a mouthful when he’s back at Tommy’s house— he smells it again, faintly. Just a reminder for him to not get too comfortable.
As, he kisses Teddy, the smell becomes unbearable, bodies no longer fresh— left forgotten in the dirt alone for years. Tommy pulls away first, David struggle not to vomit. He barely keeps his lunch down as he admits to it all. He smells that too, that identity long buried because you can’t be queer, black and mutant. It's usually a pick two type of deal, but with these new friends he made weren’t really into the whole compromising business, after this, David pretty sure he still is.
The stench is horrible at the End-Of-The-World New Years party mostly because they’re all there. Julian is there, his hair is uncut and he’s screaming along to the music. Santo and Victor are there, laughing at Julian, who is now drunkenly trying to find his lighter to wave along with the music. Santo waves hello to David, David nods back. He smells fire and tears and blood. He hates how casual they are now, as if they can’t smell it too.
At 20, David can barely stand to be alone in New York. He dreams that somewhere out in the millions of miles of national parks the air smells fresh.
The smell doesn’t go away when he kisses Tommy for the second time, or when they go out on their first actual date. But, he finds a way to ignore it when Tommy’s enterally warm hands touch his. When David gets home he almost vomits, now smelling the stench of the idea that he is almost happy and Jay is burning and Laurie is burning and Kevin is burning and Brian is burning.
When David finally mentions the contant stink of failure and death that follows him to Tommy— a year and half into their relationship— David smells Josh and Sooraya and the others still trapped a school that is perpetually on fire within Tommy’s T-shirt as they hold each other.
Tommy pushes him to seek professional help.
“Bottling shit up never works.” He claims.
David’s told by friends that Paige Guthrie doesn’t therapy for mutants at reduced prices so he makes an appointment. When he enters her office and sees Jay’s face on the woman that is supposed to help him the light lunch of Ritz Crackers and Gatorade comes flooding onto the floor. The room smells like rancid flesh and smoke so thick he can barely breath.
Instead, they talk on the phone. At first, the whole “confronting your problems” thing sucked. Lots of crying and the smell of self hate followed him. But, over time things started to suck a little less. He called Santo and Victor, as well as Sofia and Nori. They all to him they too struggled with that night and burden of surviving as much as he did. That felt kinda good, not suffering alone. Sometimes, he would stroll the streets of New York, one of the dirtiest cities in the country, his head resting on Tommy’s shoulder and it smelled just fine.