February 4, 2012

There are two things I will always remember about my grandfather: he always wore red pullovers, and he had an extraordinarily specific scent to his presence. The scent closely resembled shaving cream but was entirely more distinct, and it drenched those pullovers.

They say scent triggers the strongest associations in the brain. When Pop Pop died, all my mom wanted was one of his red pullovers. It was her inheritance, what she was left. I was young then, so I found it curious that in the following years, there would be moments in which I became spontaneously and utterly overwhelmed by Pop Pop’s scent. I wasn’t actually smelling him of course–it was some cerebral sense. But when it came, I’d be overcome by memories–more emotional than circumstantial. These instances would simply erupt. Sometimes the scent would bring me great comfort and euphoria. Then other times, it would be immobilizing. My mom used to tell little-me that it was his way of saying he missed me.

I was sitting at the movies today with a friend, and despite the total sensory overload that is Transformers, that inexplicable sense kicked in. But this time I smelled The Writer–his raw, oppressive scent. It’d been weeks since I longed for him, but all of a sudden I was sick in my seat, so instantly nauseous that I thought I’d have to run out. My stomach settled, but my nerves didn’t. That’s when I realized: he doesn’t miss me. Not at all. I wonder why it took me so long to figure that out.

As it turns out, the red pullover isn’t as cozy as it looked when I was growing up. But that’s not its function, not anymore.

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