by J.N. Lawrence
H got back with the girl that broke his heart two weeks ago. I’m not sure what to think. I hope he protects his heart. I wear earplugs to sleep in case I hear creaking from the other room.
I wish my phone would talk to me. The way it shakes itself against the surface of the wooden table making itself known. I wish I could say things like I miss you, I love you, I want you, I am here for you. I wish I could whisper into the speakerphone, buy flowers not just for Siri but for me as well. How gifts would come in the form of wabi-sabi porcelain and pottery, in books and tiny letters, in indie theaters and 88.3FM jazz, in lilies and succulents, in body warmth and in labor, in quiet silence and understanding. The phone that buzzes at the next table over is a crude reminder.
Your olfactory senses are the strongest out of all five, A explains to me. Your memory of smell brings back the strongest of memories.
I look at A, but not really looking at him; instead he is a backdrop to the flipping of my memories that are tied to smell. But I can’t see the smell; in fact most I can’t even recreate. The only memories I can see in my head are the places and people I associated those smells with at their respective moments.
I ask A again, still not ready to believe. But how can something like memories of smell, so many of them that you can’t recreate – whereas touch, seeing, hearing can be repeated – how can smell be the strongest sense?
A pauses. Okay, I want you to think of two people, he begins. The first person I want you to think about is the last friend you were with, someone who you don’t recall haven’t a distinct scent. And for the second, think of someone’s scent you do remember, who you can with no doubt say that it was theirs if a whiff of them ever passed by you.
So, I think of S this last week. I think back to how we were at Sunshine Cinema to catch a movie. I remember we shared popcorn together, I remember having a good laugh somewhere in between about something I can’t recall, I remember leaving together, hugging goodbye, and then walking the few blocks home.
And then, I think of M. The same M who I thought of this morning for a second on my bed when I was playing a song she probably played a hundred times over. It wasn’t on purpose, but I recalled that sonic memory that had brought along a picture of her leaning over her bar table with her music blasting on full volume from her laptop. But scent goes deeper than that. When I close my eyes I remember – it is a perfume, I’m sure of it, but one she used so frequently that it could’ve easily been her body scent as well. It was a deep vanilla tone, one that wasn’t overbearing and sweet like cotton candy but more sophisticated and subtle like 92% dark chocolate. I remember the shape of the bottle her scent came from, the liquid color of her.
This scent, this one that is undeniably hers even if a passing stranger might have it on and we so happened to brush shoulders, would still be M’s. I can remember my cheek against her chest and each breath I drew in was that unmistakable smell. When our faces touched, when her arms would wrap from behind, when it got on my clothes and how I would be reminded of her throughout the day without realizing it, I can remember that deep vanilla tone. Now, though, that has slowly faded and as the scent can’t be recreated the way pictures help recall memory, I am left with mental stills; the ones where we are close together, where my sweat mixes with the vanilla, where I stop in front of a store noticing the same bottle of perfume standing inside.
I turn back to A and tell him that maybe he’s right.
He gives a nod. Yeah, it’s like in Ratatouille when the critic walks in and has his childhood dish – but he’s not recalling that dish he had when he was a kid, he’s recalling the warmth of his home, his mother, his childhood.
I smile at A.
So then, Is it worst that there are some scents that you can never recreate, or is it that there are some scents you can never disassociate from someone?
A gives it a thought, his eyes moving towards the corners. He gives someone a thought. I know he hasn’t forgotten their scent, that unmistakable love.