Rain dripped from the tip of my nose and chased a new world down my neck and into my jumper, like Alice in her trusty rabbit hole, ready to marry tight knit and sweaty cotton.
My hands pushed against the brick door frame and I smelt the salty heat of kecap manis, ginger and damp sand as I pushed my head back inside, craving the warm of the wok but fighting the urge to plunge into the waltzing ocean.
I’ve always been good at picking out a scent, specific ones like dried coriander or sweet cinnamon. When I went Christmas shopping with my grandad for nanny, the perfume she normally wore was sold out. So, I asked the lady at the till if she had anything with rose in it, because that was a part of Nanny’s smell. She wore that same smell everyday, the former fragrance sitting derelict on the mantlepiece like a bitter wife post-divorce. Bottle after bottle of citrus-rose heaven was bought. It was perfect. I was only 10 when we stopped by that shop.
Smells matter to me.
They attach me to moments, bathe me in heady stories and memories. They anchor me. I do not grieve a love lost, or a moment passed until I forget what it smells like. What’s the point in missing something that you can still smell? When you close your eyes you can still feel that heat around you, the tingle that coursed down your thighs, or into your fingertips? It’s still there when you own that smell. When you have that, you can still swirl in the specifics, relish in a reality you have lost.
There were young boys dotted along the shoreline, streaks of muscle and sinew in wetsuits – it was October afterall. Dogs darted in and out of waves and rock pools as their owners rushed to shelter. Long lines with nets and children attached at opposite ends battled the waves to pull out any stray crabs that may be clinging on in the breeze. Parents on the other hand, battled strong willed nippers clinging to the sea wall in a desperate attempt to find the best catch.
I thought it would be quiet here.
It was autumn, summer had departed and left behind a puff of smoke in the form of orange leaves and drizzle from the sputtering exhaust of a soft top chevy. Who comes to a town the size of the stamps on an international postcard in the biting cold, miles from nowhere, just as the seasons are taking route in their semi-permanent allotment?
Mothers with broods of chilly children, fathers with their fathers catching the last fish of the ambiguous ‘season’, campervans full of young men and dogs here to drink cider and ruffle their messy locks in sea salt, couples desperate for some time away from the office, their phones, their families or maybe just to check they still liked each other.
It was anything but empty. It had soul.
I didn’t think I was going to be here. Not for this long anyway.
But there were affairs that had to be managed. There was organising to do and filing of memories, decisions and discourse to carry out.
Testimonies, wills, and matters of the heart all put in their appropriate boxes.
The latter perhaps more difficult than mourning.
The harbour was begging for an affidavit from me, exposing the nature of my being there and I wasn’t sure if I could find the words to write it.
Graphic by Georgia Hunt, drawn from a photograph of Porlock Weir.