Now I know the smell of memory.
The smell of memory is tenacious and unassuming.
The smell of memory can grip you by the nostrils and jerk your head back to perfect days of doing nothing but standing by a window, nursing a cigarette and weak, black coffee, thinking idly of writing about a past that is forgotten and irrelevant, what with life happening in the here and now.
Memory and its smell makes a mockery of notions of love and distance, of propriety and passion, and known truths and unknown certainties.
The smell makes a sniffler of strong women with husbands and children in other lands; weakens them so much so that everyday tasks like laundry, cooking, cleaning become minefields and scenes for contentious battle. How do you remove the stain of memory on a sheet that smells like a loved one who is far away?
The smell of memory assaults me with the sanitised but fresh fragrance of washing detergent from a country that still feels, wrongly, like home. A smell that has travelled across countries in a forgotten bleak, grey t-shirt—a warm miracle of a t-shirt that did all this without the agony of paperwork. In this smell, do I realise all those profundity of thoughts I had had in a place where I felt like persona non grata, where I knew myself to be mostly homesick and even briefly unhappy. But the smell of memory changes all that. In the smell of memory, I forget the pain of joints that used to swell up at the barest hint of wet, the ache of being away from the familiar, and the loneliness of being unrecognised.
The smell of memory today is a life-affirming reminder.
We must eat less. We must exercise more. We must age gracefully. We must live in the moment as far as possible. We must turn off our phones and the internet often and have real conversations over healthy food and unhealthy cigarettes. We must take walks, holding hands, laughing, talking about our days. We must sit under a tree and drift. We must watch a river flutter and still, until we are calm and have realised life happens at the strangest of places, and that we are always falling in love so it is pointless to fall in love and hold on to any one person all through your life. Though, sometimes, you do end up falling in love multiple times with the same person and that’s an easy life. But life is inexplicable and love is not all that important, the way we think it is. We must nibble on seasonal fruits at every turn. We must let ourselves be consumed by music, by art, by the past for brief periods so we remember who we are and what we have come from. We must learn to let go of the past so we may create new definitions of the world around us. We must kiss in laughter and loop hands and walk in love. We must get wet in the rain. We must be light of body and lighter of soul. We must delight in sunshine. We must smell the rain. We must taste the blandness of an avocado and enjoy it.
We. Must. Enjoy. The. Moment.
Only memory is not about the moment. Memory is deep-sated, insatiable thirst for the past, the life that now shines and sparkles unreachable and so alluring in a July or August gone so far by, that we can never climb up the calendar and reclaim it again. And if we could, how would we? Time has altered us. And memory has addled us. Memory, the shapeshifter, has transformed us into the ‘you’ of the past that retains the sense of the present, its appreciation of history.
But memory, the trickster, is never up to any good, making it seem as if the world has stood still in all the time it took (months, years, an eternity) for my t-shirt to be rediscovered and worn, smelling richly of you.
Memory always smells like you.