I pushed back small wisps of hair from my face, then wiped the sweat from my forehead. I opened the window. I stood in front of it, pulling my t-shirt away from my body to allow the breeze to hit my skin and let some of the sweat dry and cool me. Then I rolled my shoulders to loosen the ache building there, and turned back to the task at hand.
I pulled the freshly washed jersey sheets out and smoothed them over the bed. Then I finally allowed myself the luxury of lying down on this new bed. After the long day of moving, my head is spinning slightly now that I am allowing myself to hold still. I breathed deeply and felt some of the store tension leave my body. I fumbled on the floor for my water bottle and took a deep gulp. I emptied it. I aimed for the trash can in the bathroom. And missed. No surprise there.
I pulled off my shoes and took a step…into what felt like a clump of dog hair. Right, the previous tenant hadn’t really cleaned when she moved out. I felt tears prick my eyes that there was still so much to do despite the hard day I had put in. Time for another deep breath, and remember that I still have tomorrow to make this room into a home.
The hardwood felt wonderful on my bare feet. It was wonderfully cool and smooth despite the oppressive summer heat. I step into the kitchen, where my roommate was waiting with ice cold shots and beer to follow it. The burn of the cheap vodka was quickly dissipated by fizz of the beer. Then we found the wonderful shady spot on the front porch to sit, put our feet up, pull out a cigarette and forget about the tension of the day, as well as what needs to still be done tomorrow. That can wait. Now it is time to feel nothing but the irresponsibility of youth enjoying a summer night.
I remember so many nights when I was a child where I would be trying to go to sleep and my dad would be playing The Doors records. It must have been when I was 5 and 6, because it was long before my little brother was born. The record player was in the living room, but I think my oldest brother was still up because he was watching TV in the family room. My mom would be at the one computer we had at the time, tapping away at the keys.
The main song I remember my father listening to was Riders on the Storm. There were even a few nights were the weather outside matched the sound effects of the song. It made the storm seem that much closer, and go on that much longer. There was one tree that was right next to my bedroom for the longest time and when the wind picked up the branches would brush against my window. The sound never scared me. In fact, I tended to find it oddly comforting. Then the rain would hit my window and almost sound like it was the spray of a house. Of course, in those days there were also a few holes in the roof so soon my brother would be running for pots and pans to catch the leaks in the family room. I could hear my mother yelling when she heard another drip start.
It also seemed like in such weather one of the cats always managed to get stuck outside and would start crying to be let in. Sometimes it was even right outside my window, despite the fact that the window screen kept me from being able to let them in.
Oddly enough, the emotion I associate most with such memories. Annoyance that I couldn’t get to sleep. Annoyance that everyone was shouting and getting anxious. But most of all, annoyance that I would get into trouble if I left my room to see what was going on.
I know the name of the perfume and perfume power my Grandma always had, but I don’t remember what it smells like. I remember it always made me feel grown-up to get a chance to wear it…but I can’t even remember what kind of scent it was. I think it was floral but I’m not sure. I know it wasn’t fruity, but maybe it was also musky? I know the name, I think it’s even still sold, but I don’t want to go to a store and see because I like that those memories and the pain of her being gone is stored away.
I have a scented candle that smells almost exactly like my last boyfriend’s cologne, but I keep it put away because that becomes a painful memory. As much as I have moved past the relationship and breakup, smelling that candle reminds me of the times during winter where laying next to him kept me warm, and having my face next to his neck would allow me to smell that small amount of cologne he wore. It is a rather bittersweet smell.
It is hard for me to smell cigarette smoke these days, as I only quit in the past year. It is like temptation wafting towards me, telling me that if I just go buy a pack any and all stress I am feeling will just melt away. I like the smell of smoke, even from brands of cigarettes I used to think smelled disgusting. I’m also somewhat disturbed that I can tell the different brands just by smell.
The smell of chicken curry is like its own box of memories. Sometimes it reminds of camping with friends twice a year, and it was always what I would make when it was my turn to cook dinner. Or it reminds me of when I cooked for a bunch of people at a friends house, and spent all day alternating between cooking in the kitchen, washing the 3 or 4 pans I had available, and sitting down to talk with by friends. It can be the comforting alternative to chicken soup in winter. In can be the meal that wins over a new guy I’m dating. It can remind me of all the fun I had listening to music and singing while chopping all the ingredients.
Something about the combined smell of stale beer and spilled alcohol that wafts from the door of every bar makes me smile. Perhaps it is that I associate that smell with 1 am, when I’ve been drinking for a while and having a lot of fun. Or that that is a time when I have to relax. Maybe it is because the bar itself where I order drinks smells like that. Or it could just be that I’m not sure what kind of drink I want to start my night with and it gives me an olfactory sampling of my options.
I can’t remember the first book I ever read. I can’t remember what it felt like when I got my ears pierced. I can’t remember if my cat Marmalade used to purr. I can’t remember where the Star Trek convention I went to when I was four was at. I can’t remember my Grandma’s ratatouille recipe. I can’t remember how she made it taste so good. I can’t remember when I first started to hate horror movies.
I can’t remember where my mother was on my sixth birthday. I can’t remember if she stilled like her mother when I was that young. I can’t remember the first time I was stuck in front of a sewing machine. I can’t remember if I hated it as much then as I do now, or if I simply despaired because I was no good at it. I can’t remember why I set such high expectations for myself even as a child. I can’t remember if I liked ballet when I was a child.
I can’t remember if my brother was driven or flew to Las Vegas when he moved there when we were teenagers. I can’t remember the reason he decided to come back. I can’t remember how I felt the day of my oldest brother’s wedding. I can’t remember the first guy who asked me out on a date. I can’t remember when the coffee shop that was next to the used bookstore where I had my first job closed. I can’t remember the first time I had a cup of coffee. I can’t remember why I ever thought I should start my day without it.
I can’t remember when I left the path of the religion I was raised in. I can’t remember when I accepted that as being okay. I can’t remember the last time I went to a bonfire at the beach. I can’t remember when I stopped trying my hand at photography. I can’t remember the last time I danced with all the joy it used to bring me. I can’t remember the last time I baked a cake. I can’t remember the last time I let someone other than my best friend see me cry. I can’t remember what possessed me to keep using an email address I created on a whim two and a half years ago – but still seems to amuse people. I can’t remember when I made peace with my mother.
I can’t remember the last time I talked with my father’s family. I can’t remember why that makes me feel guilty. I can’t remember the last time I had a chance to pet my cat Mercy. I can’t remember if she got stuck in my room the night Andrew named her. I can’t remember the last time I mopped the hardwood floors in my house. I can’t remember how long I tried to put together the big bookshelf in my living room on my own before giving up. I can’t remember the last time I cleaned out the fridge. I can’t remember the last time my cooking made someone smile.