Color—all of it, all colors—has no smell except the smell of crayola wax because for me, it’s the very first time I remember pure color, a vivid color, one that I could work to my will, one that was part of my world and was something more than the phantasms of adulthood. The wax seemed to smell differently depending on the color; I mean of course it wouldn't, but somehow hot pink smelled different than burnt orange smelled different than plain purple. Or maybe, because it was always wax again, and because the colors were so pure, the wax was like a blank page, a blank screen with a blinking cursor, a photo film coated in silver waiting for an image to be exposed onto it; wax was the medium carrying the smells of memory, the smell of sharp lemon that went with the lemon crayon, the smell of rubber and dirt and grime that went with the dark greys, the smell of grape juice with the purple, the smell of flamingos, fishy and bird droppings, that went with the neon orange, the smell of fear that went with the dark browns, the dark greens, the grey brown murky colors.
Maybe the reason little kids scribble isn't because they're not aware of the lines, it's because they've got something more interesting than the lines, they've got a smell-picture in their heads, and the exact combination of colors in scribble perfectly conjurors up the smell they're thinking of.
Did I mention I used to jam crayons into the center of a box fan, to watch the wax melt into circles of blur and color? Wax and dust was the smell. Also when I was really young I used to smash crayons into the grill of the space heater, to smell the wax as it melted against the warm dust coating the inside of the heater. I wonder now why my mother would let me get away with something so messy, but I realize that she probably figured, in the grand scheme of odd things boys do to clean up after, that wasn't such a big deal. Maybe she also thought the colors were pretty, and didn't mind so much because of it. Or, maybe she too has some sacred memory of crayons, the wax trapping the scent and the memory as sure as it traps the color of the crayon. Maybe she couldn't bring herself to rebuke grade school—coloring in the flags of the world, the crayons she held in her hand, the crayon she broke when grandma cried out because the radio just announced President Kennedy had been shot, the sharp smell of wax every bit as deadly and grim as gunpowder, the plastic smell of childhood itself.
- Brian Thedell