By Jorge Santana

A few days ago, they asked me, “what is your first memory?” I did not have to think too much, the immediate thing that came to my mind was the smell of the skin of my father’s Grand Marquis. The rare times my father picked me up from school are tattooed in my memory. He arrived impeccably, always well dressed, and when he got into his car, the scent of the leather was overwhelming; a dark leather, radiant, an aroma that I will never forget. Smell is a great trunk of memories, a black worm that unites us instantly to another time, and takes our present to another dimension. I began to think about the amount of aromas that make up our days, that bring us memories; aromas that we remember, some we long for and others we will never smell again. The best scent I experience is when I finish cleaning my old home. When I finish polishing the wood, oiling the furniture, removing that damn dust that Pita Amor wrote so much about; “dust destroyer of the world,” she said. When I finish I give myself a long hot bath and then a jet of cold water to revive the heart. I drop to bed, semi-dry, my hair still wet, and when I fall on the fluffy coverlet, the aroma explodes, the aroma of soap, of my damp skin, of the miraculous shampoo, all those cleansing scents come to my exhausted self and they cover me like a kiss. But there are plenty of aromas that provoke something, that become eternal in the memory. That aroma of the person with whom you wake up, that some would find horrifying, but it is love that makes that morning scent almost erotic. The aroma kisses behind the ear. The Maja dust that my first-year teacher used, the smell of my nanny’s sweat when she carried me after mopping the kitchen. The smell of the first cold, that first cold that arrives there at the end of November or beginning of December when you are already tired of the heat and when leaving work to start the day, you come across the first cold, with that unique aroma of the first cold of the year. The aroma of freshly ironed clothes, the scent of early mornings that is different from the scent of any other time of day, the scent of entering a foreign house, the aroma of the glasses that did not wash well. The smell of your mother, of your parents, of going through a clothesline full of clothes dripping. The aroma of freshly cut grass, of the firewood that barely ignites, the aroma of cigarettes, the breath of a puppy. The smell of veterinarians, the smell of churches, the baths of rich houses, the scent of Christmas, the aroma of the capirotada, the smell of circuses, of smoke in the House of Mirrors. The scent of that spray water that they put on you when getting a haircut, which they swear is only water but deep down you know it is not. The smell of the permanent marker, of the hair dye, of places that make manicures and pedicures. The smell of a shoeshine stand, the smell of your coats when they make their debut in the winter. The aroma of religious stores, the intoxicating aroma of gasoline. The aroma of the ladies, “copetonas” who wear their vintage perfumes, the aroma of gentlemen who are hardly taken care of. The smell of your room when you’ve been sick. The smell of fresh ink when opening a newspaper. The fattening aroma of the bakeries, the suffocating aroma of the seafood section in the supermarket. The scent of a freshly cut beard, the aroma of a forgotten Tupperware. The aroma of humidity, the aroma of Tampico in August. The aroma of embracing the one you love, of embracing who you hate, the lack of aroma that is also an aroma. The aroma of your house after you arrive from a long trip. The smell of a new city, of the wet earth, of the proximity of a storm. The scent of money, the scent of poverty, the strong smell of fuzziness. The scent of freedom, of the trees, of the autumn, of the leaves burning in the neighbor’s yard. The smell of lifting a stone and the underneath where the worms reside. The aroma of the fertilizer, the aroma of someone else in the aroma of the one you love, the aroma of the freezer, the intense smell of what is not there. Anyway, dear reader, it is how it is. We’ve no other way.

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