They say scent is the sense with the strongest ties to memory. The smell of chlorine reminds me of swimming lessons at the YMCA. I remember the taste of pennies, my curls drying brittle on the car ride home and the number one rule when swimming: do NOT open your eyes underwater. But I did, of course, because that’s the only way a six-year-old can win Marco Polo.
I can recall with perfect clarity the blurry burn in my eyes after a swimming lesson, and blinking didn’t help. My eyes could not be quenched, my skin felt tight, my baby blonde hair took on a green hue in daylight and especially under the locker room fluorescents. But, my swim coach, my parents, and the janitor told me the pungent smell and stinging in my eyes was a powerful chemical working to keep the whole place clean and safe.