SCENT

It’s hard to describe the smell as anything other than green. It’s not for lack of vocabulary, or fear of being unclear. It’s because that smell there in the corridor between the bog and the stand of trees is green.

Pine-scented? No. Mould? No. Growing grass? No. Green, goddamnit, green.

The green of that early spring morning in 1987, in the backyard of the old house, kneeling in the dewy lawn and staring at the stark contrast between the newness of the big plastic toy Millenium Falcon and the outside world. You ever notice that? When you take some brand-new, clean artifical thing into the outdoors and look at it, how alien it seems? How it stands out? That contrast, once more overwhelming my still-developing 12 year-old senses. And the smell. The smell of green.

A cold shadow draped the backyard that morning, cast by the seperate garage where my parents parked their Ranchero. That was a beautiful vehicle, even if the seats could burn the backs of your naked thighs in high summer, and woe unto you if a white-hot steel seatbelt clasp made contact with that sensitive flesh. It only seated 3 on its single bench seat, and whenever possible my brother rode bitch. It wasn’t because he was one, he just liked sitting in the middle. One rainy night a few years later we’d get rear-ended by a drunk driver. If we’d been hit with just a little more force we’d have been pushed into the busy intersection we were stopped at, likely causing serious injury or death. I remember mom shooting her arm across the two of us, an extra meat-belt that would’ve provided zero protection, but it was something she did on instinct. The Ranchero’d been a write-off, and I mourned that fact much later in life when I knew more about cars; the dead truck had been only a year away from becoming officially “classic”.

My bike tires crunch the gravel on the corridor floor and I’m through the cold air and into warmer, brighter atmosphere. The smell is gone, taking with it the vivid memories of an age long past, leaving me to focus on the overwhelming pressure of the present. I take a deep breath, and ride on.

ἀμνησία

“Remember when we used to be in love?” she asked.

“No,” I said.

“Oh, come on,” she said, punching me in the shoulder. “I’m being serious.”

“So am I. I really don’t.” And I really didn’t. The accident had stolen most of my memories. I could recall running in a field of grass, and I must have been small because the world seemed so big. Though, for all I knew, that memory could have been a false one. The doctors had said that was natural, like the brain sought to fill the gaps with something, anything, to form a kind of scaffolding on which to rebuild reality.

She saw that I was, in fact, being serious. She scowled. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to remember, or that I was playing some kind of game with her. I really had no recollection of ever being romantically involved with her. Not a moment’s sadness clouded her beautiful features, though. She wasn’t about to let my disability stop her.

“In that case, maybe I could tell you a story about it. Maybe then you might remember?”

I’d been listening to stories about my supposed past for the last few weeks, and nothing had rung any bells. The memory of the field had been there when I’d woken up, a single wet slide in a projection carousel filled with blanks. I smiled what felt like a really wan and half-assed smile and nodded anyway. It wouldn’t do to dampen her hope for my recovery.

“Good. It was a rainy night in July when we first met. I was coming home from a cooking class, something I’d decided to take on a lark. I’d been shamed a few months before by some of the other women in the office for admitting that I couldn’t cook worth a damn, and one of the more sympathetic ladies had given me the name and number of this cooking instructor. Harold was his name, a fat man with many years of professional experience in kitchens all over the world. He’d retired by then, and was filling his evening hours by sharing his craft with whomever could afford the tuition fee.

“I remember that night I’d learned the basics of preparing a duck à l’orange, and I’d been going over the ingredients in my head. Coriander, cumin, marjoram. I’d been completely absorbed in the recipe when I ran straight into you, standing there at the number 7 bus stop outside of Lendall’s. You’d managed to drop all your papers into the gutter, and I was so embarrassed. And you asked me to coffee.”

It was a nice story. I remembered doing none of it, and for all I knew this was the first time I’d ever heard it. It was frustrating, and she sensed that. She patted my hand and smiled. I looked at her and thought, I could be in love with this woman, yes. If only I knew who she was.

“I have to go. I’ll be back tomorrow, and I’ll tell you more.” She stood up and brushed the front of her skirt down with hands that belied the youthful look of her face.

“Wait,” I said.

“Yes?” she asked, shoulder her purse.

“What’s your name?”

MEDITATION

“What are you doing?” she asked.

I looked up. For a perfect moment I’d almost been lost, completely, to the time and place. Inhabiting the moment, as the old master had called it. Almost, but not quite.

“Just sitting here,” I said. “Breathing.” And after a long pause, “thinking of her.”