18 June 2007

Make this go on forever

the first time that I felt connected
to anything

Twist off the bottle top and inhale. For most people, a hair product that smells vaguely of coconut and vaguely of something else nice. To me, a newly autumn afternoon in New England, the faintest tinge of chill in the air that is rustling with gold, orange and red. The sun slants in a way that is different from the way it shines in my latitude and in the slightly hazy distance, over a river and a rolling hill, a small white church nestles alone in a dell, a scene from a postcard. If I hold the memory just a little longer, there is my own face reflected in the hotel mirror, and I am, most improbably, giggling. The back of my hand is pressed against my lips to stifle the laughter (who would hear me? The spouse 3,000 miles away who is alarmed by and slightly disapproving of this adventure? The people in the next room, who based on the music they are playing, are here for the same reason I am?). I meet my own eyes in the mirror and mirth wells up again. My brown, bobbed head smells vaguely of coconut and vaguely of something else nice. Inhale again, and the excitement and the music and the joy are there with me.

Another bottle, with a smell now far too sweet but perfect for a preteen, recalls Christmastime and Sherlock Holmes and rock candy and the sticky delight of lip gloss. Life was sweetly honest and happily uncomplicated for that short time, as it should be.

September in California smells of smoke and smog and ozone. The air is hot with anticipation, the hills a crusty brown. It's the start of school with all its itchy misery and sense of the unknown, cheap alcohol and frightened freshman full of bravado.

Clove cigarettes are so 1983.

The cool smell of dusty old concrete, coupled with an acrid whiff of bat, and a breeze from an undetermined source were the dark tunnels of the summer of 1984, the ones we weren't supposed to be in. But with my amazingly large set of administrative keys to EVERYTHING, how could P. and I resist the temptation to explore one Friday evening? Beautiful P. of the silver-gilt hair who "divorced" me shortly afterward when I slipped a security strip in his briefcase, causing him to set off every alarm in the building when he tried to leave. I suppose I deserved it.

Oh woe! The smell of New Orleans in June, red beans and rice and the unfortunate afterburn of horse and someone's overindulgence in Hurricanes the night before. It is the smell of an alternate Disneyland, an evil dark ride.

Paper has its own smell, and safely tucked in the window seat in the corner of the Children's Room, I literally stuck my nose in a book. Nearly every single book in that little library. Stories swirled through my head: Camazotz, and detectives in togas and Alfred Hitchcock and the Emerald City of Oz. And each had its own smell, its own texture, its own life.

Arizona monsoon season is filled with unbearable humidity. The wind sings, calling up dust and ghosts, and an angry yellow sky. There is hope in the smell of far-off rain, the sweetness of sage and the ozone of lightening, so different from the pollution-based ozone of California. It is the promise of relief from the torrid heat. Tornados touch down, glass breaks, hail tears into the trees, the mud, anything in its path. Incomprehensible yearning accompanied those storms, a desire for rebirth and baptism, a need for change and movement.

It was years before I realized that I knew the smell of water.

Growing up in the desert, one accepts the small graces and the gifts that are offered. There is simplicity and peace in that existence, but it wasn't an existence I could embrace because it was always complicated by desire that even now I fail to comprehend. Memory beckons, and the need for another adventure, another moment in time. The genie refuses to stay in the bottle for long.

Go listen to some good music: "Make This Go On Forever" from the album Eyes Open by Snow Patrol.