Olfactorily, it’s rich.
So rich, it briefly nearly resurrects her:
I stick my nose between the pages of Mama’s address book and there it is, unmistakeably, a scent of her. How did she leave it there? How has it preserved itself? It’s alive almost two years after she died. It’s instantly recognizable as hers, yet hard to describe.
Lysle, too, sticks his small nose into the book for me, if reluctantly: “It smells of paper.”
But it’s more. It’s paper that has spent most of its time in a drawer of the 1960s oak vanity my mother ended up using for a desk. She took off the mirror, yet the wood had long soaked up droplets of perfume she applied when the mirror still reflected her.
The secret is in the atomizer.
It broke up her perfume into the finest mist.
The finest mist penetrated the pores of wood.
The pores of wood that no longer grows preserve the atoms of scent.
So the address book smells of paper
that smells of wood
that smells of perfume
that smells of my gone mother
who smelled of the whole world to me when I was little.
All I can do is sniff it the way animals do for information and enjoy that paradox she left with us – a lasting whiff.
Suddenly I worry I may sniff up the whiff, lose it by opening the pages too much among our overpowering living smells, so I stop and shut the book. Don’t want to lose that trace of her. That opportunity for a brief and near resurrection.
The secret is in the atomizer, though.
There is no paradox here.
And no need to worry about further loss.
Mama is atomized now.
And our atoms are immortal and widespread.