Thursday, January 15, 2004

I've been thinking about my sense of smell today. I've been thinking about smell for three reasons.
The first is that it's winter and half of the season I spend with clogged sinuses. It's not so much from the cold, but more from the dryness of being indoors with heaters. Also living in this land of concentrated smog doesn't help. The dirty air is something I'm not going to miss.
The second thing was a piece I read of Neil Gaiman's talking about his favorite smell and he came close to stealing mine. He said Autumn. My favorite smell I only get once a year and I never know when it's coming. Sometimes it will last for a few days though. It usually comes around late July or early August. I'll wake up with my window open from the heat, but in the morning it won't be oppressively hot yet. And with my first long intake of breath I'll smell summer. It floods me with awareness of the season and I'll spend the next month hyperaware of how magnificent of a season it is.
The third thing, and the most potent of all, is that I've been going through my old letters and throwing most of them away. I don't need most of it. But in the process I'm finding a lot of things I didn't know I'd saved and would never get rid of. I had four boxes with "My Ignorant Past" written on the sides. They were full of letters, pictures, ticket stubs, and so on. I've got them down to around one and a fourth boxes.
I found a bag that Nissa gave me before she left. It's a tote bag with a hair care products name on the side. When she gave it to me it smelled like her. Her smell was kind of a cross between her shampoo, some cleaning product used in her house, and just a hint of her dog Daisy. The bag smells like my last car now, which is where it sat for many months, so I'll probably get rid of the bag now.
The thing I keep running across are letters from Wendy. I met Wendy about twelve years ago. She had burgundy Louise Brooks hair, a round 1940's pop singer type of face, and a richly feminine voice. Her voice was to the female voice what James Earl Jones' is to the male voice.
Wendy nursed me back to health when I had my botched wisdom tooth surgery. She used to write me letters often in crayon. I loved her, but not in the "I'm determined to spend the rest of my life with you" way that I loved Nissa. Wendy and I would meet and hang out and make out and play minature golf and have milkshakes twice a month or so. It was wonderful.
Wendy smelled like a fragrance called Exclaimation. I'm told it's a cheap, crappy perfume. It's like cotton candy of perfumes. But everytime I smell it I think maybe, if I follow it, I'll find Wendy.
I don't know where she is anymore. The last time I saw her, her father had just died. She was living in Berkeley. But this reminds me of a good thing that I've realized from going through all of these old letters. I think this is the first time in my life I've gone through old letters and not come out of it sad. I think it's because I'm happy with where I am right now and I've become what I wished I was back then.

People sometimes ask if you had to lose one of your senses, which would you choose? I know it wouldn't be smell for me. I'd probably choose my sense of moral outrage. That's the one that gets people into the most trouble.


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