It was this morning that I finally realised what had been bothering me lately everytime I stepped outside. While I love the warm fall weather, it’s been wreaking havoc with my mental smell-tionary; it smells like India here. Not exactly – nowhere do I smell the beautiful heady weird and deathly smell of jasmine – but so close. Riding to work this morning it smelled like the acrid mix of burning leaves and burning tires, the scent of Eid in the air in our little multicultural strip, shit, tar, rain and smog. I was biking along and all of a sudden I was in his car.. him.. who I haven’t thought of in forever since I decided I wouldn’t think of him in forever…I could feel my dress around my legs, my shawl around my shoulders, I could smell him, feel his anger at being stuck in traffic, smell the bad wine of the night. I could still hear the talk at the reception we were leaving, the humidity on my skin. It was so startling it almost knocked me off my bike. It put this weird lump of remembering in my throat – not really of sadness, but like trying to swallow a whole life back into me that just didn’t have the right to come up anymore.
It’s strange, how things end changes everything previous to the end. The way that months or even years after, things you learn as you chop down the forest around you to see the trees fall…changes the way you remember the color of the leaves. I don’t think that that particular sense of acridity and pain has really bled into very many memories of my life, but those.. those are blue bruises that I think maybe I have not dealt with yet- as plunging headlong into a bush on my bicycle would suggest. It seems as though the color of how things end seeps into everything previous, a slow bleed into all the memories until even the day you met turns sad and mean. I find myself able to talk mostly…or only, of the things that I did alone in the last year, in D.C, after coming back from Inida. The only thing that isn’t tinged with irrationality and anger and ulcers are the galleries that I visited, always alone, always wondering, briefly happy. The rest puts knots in my stomach and I feel strangely guilty talking about things that I learned, loved, knew, bought .. anything of that period.
I read a blog the other day, and the writer discussed biking down the canal.. And I looked, and the sand in the picture, and the bridge.. they were those colors.. she was from Maryland. I had biked that path, a trip which ended in a huge fight at Dean and Deluca’s, where I remember trying to gamely stuff a croissant down my throat and just…go. The lobby of Reagan airport flashed on TV last night and I blurted out “I was dumped in that lobby!” before I could stop myself, and I remember so clearly collapsing in a panic on my luggage and litterally, for the first time in 2 years as stress left my body.. I fell dead asleep in the middle of the airport. My plane didn’t even leave until the next day I figured out about a week later.. I think they had just taken such pity on me that they put me on a plane and sent me home.
There are specific smells of India, of course, that invoke nothing but.. well.. me and mine. The hot sand, the smell of jasmine, the smell of mango and melon season, the smell of desert and decay. Tea and old dusty carpets make me think of my mother and jewellery, and incense and cigarettes make me think of a very old friend, whiskey makes me think of my brother and the pubs there…
But shit, tar and rain, that makes me think of him.