Smells are bookmarks.
Casually created, fondly summoned wormholes for memories. Months after you first heard/smelled them, they arrive at your doorstep like unexpected relatives in Diwali, demanding recognition and undivided hospitality.
A certain coffee-flavored mouth ‘freshner’ bottle rolls outside my door, kissing an empty dust can. A full bottle beside an empty can. A sea beside a despondent lover. And I, the conspiring grand-aunt, squat responsible for meeting lover and sea. Bottle and can. The reason I threw it out was so intuitive it had to be overwritten against my mother’s suspicious coffee-brown eyebrows. The smell of the freshner reminded me of depression.
That November is a month-long anniversary of the trough of my depression didn’t help. The same month a year ago, I was at my worst. Like a lush fruit gone rancid in reverse. I was my lowest, my angriest, my emptiest. An empty dust can. Probing in the dark for his refill. His rejuvenating swig of happiness. His mouth freshner. With a smell of coffee.
You know it’s a memorable time when literal and metaphorical blend into each other faster than familiar lovers. The freshner waltzed into my black hole of a life, and hovered over me like fruit flies as I bled poem after poem on white screen, concentrating my nonsensical rage into a snake of digital ink. It wasn’t the cause of my subsequent (and personally, incomplete) overhaul. It wasn’t a solution to my state. It was a notch in time. An important, coffee-colored date marked on a calender. A year into the future, to be flipped back into view for inspection and bittersweet remembrance.
If only I had known the unspeakable power the squat protrusion between my eyes wielded over my mind, I would’ve bought a whole set of mouth fresheners to record and play time back. Lemon for happy days. Coffee for vacations. Mint for nervousness. Orange for road trips. Nothing for depressions.
If only I’d have known my depression had unknowingly been put on tape, a tape that would leak itself to me at the most unexpected of times, I would have made sure the freshner emptied its overblown coffee essence in the trash can the same month a year ago. That I bled digital ink onto paper alone. That the fruit flies departed to someone who wanted their tapes played back.
If only I had known smells contributed so much to vision, I’d have preserved every important snippet in a color-coded tube like my pediatrician. And never suffered from the angel of forgetfulness.
The impossible tangle of desirable and undesirable data. The unquenchable dread felt on tasting a life-changing experience- a dread that the rising and setting suns would eventually let its wonder ebb away like dandruff.
If only I’d known smells, I would, today, read time like an open book on rainy evenings. Beside a cup. Of coffee.
Tamarind for bittersweet endings.