Her sheets were a disheveled ruin of the night before. Wrinkled and bunched in random places as she struggled for sleep, churning her sheets like a steamboat fighting the current. The midriff of her mattress was exposed, lifted from the corners as she gripped the sheets, instead of clinging to the pillows she never used.
We would often lie in bed together and do nothing except breathe in the cigarette smoke that escaped from our fingers. There were times we found it more pleasurable than conversation; at times it was more erotic than having our lips melt into one. It was our thing, the aspect that separated us from our previous relationships. We wanted to be like Prometheus and steal fire from the gods to give to the mortals, regardless of our chained punishment to come. Our fire was the scents we could give each other-stolen moments to be recalled later. Smell is linked to memory more than any of the other senses-even people who suffer from severe memory loss are less likely forget something if there is a smell strongly connected to the memory. But now, I am trying to quit smoking. What will be our thing when cigarette smoke doesn’t leak from my fingertips?
Months after we broke up, I would try to fall asleep while attempting to conjure the smell of her soaked into my sheets. I closed my eyes as hard as I could and shut out all sounds by concentrating on memory. I raised my sheets to my nose and deeply inhaled, hoping to summon her fragrance. Her smell was a fleeting whiff of perfume-I never cared to ask what brand it was-or the scent of her shampoo that assaulted my pillow and lingered for days. It would radiate from every pore on her wrists, shoulders, and collarbones. Each time I brushed my nose against her soft shoulder, or lifted her palm for a kiss, I could never understand or put into words what I felt. When I raised my sheets to breathe her in, I was unsuccessful most of the time; but if I was lucky, a small, rogue moment would come when the apparition of her body, her scent, would linger, leaving me craving more until the next time I saw her. It was as if an old yet altered memory of her would be laying next to me-the idealistic and perfect image of what I always wanted her to be-could be recalled from the depth of my olfactory sense.
I used to lay on her bed with her, fetal position inscribing fetal position, and I could never imagine myself being anywhere else. But occasionally, I could smell more than just her within her crumbling palace of cascading sheets. It was a musty kind of smell, quite unlike the combination of our two bodies. I wondered if it was from a good friend of hers who watched a movie while lounging in bed with her.
But I would never know.
Upcoming Quilt Events Poetry Slam Saturday, Oct. 6 8 pm Plant Hall Rathskellar
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