Memories are wild doors; they are the kind you might find in a wonderfully imaginative book, full of wardrobes and woods. But sometimes, you strike your hand through the fur coats and are disappointed by the hardwood, a hollow thud against your expectant palm. The door is closed, and you do not know how to open it.
This was my experience post-Covid. No smell meant, unexpectedly, a lack of memory. You’ve likely been told that smell is the strongest link to memory. I don’t remember where I first heard that, but I do remember where I experienced it. I was walking down the main drag in my college campus once, thinking about anything, when a girl swept past. Her perfume wrapped around me like a grasp; it whooshed me into a large dorm room with a tornado of clothes and books on the floor, bright neon bedspreads, a molding pot of coffee on the bathroom counter, a pleasant, scrambled place, which I instantly knew was my freshman room. It was jarring. Like really teleporting for a fraction of a second, but jettisoning back as the full instant closed in. If I want to visit again, I can take myself to Victoria’s Secret, supposing they still have the scent.
Back when my taste and smell first changed, I joined a Facebook page called “Parosmia - Post COVID Support Group.” There are more than twenty-eight thousand members in it, from all over the world. Some make videos of themselves trying new foods to see whether or not they’ll taste awful. Some ask questions of the veterans. Some post advice – a vitamin that seems to be helping or a nasal spray that worked a wonder. It’s a sad group, really. Lots of hope and despondency. The other day, on a similar page, I read a woman’s angry rant about her father. He had heard her saying that meat and onions smelt the worst, so he got out the crockpot and set meat and onions to cook for the day like some kind of rotten potpourri for the poor pregnant woman.
I often contemplate leaving the group. It’s sad to stay; most people leave once they recover. It reminds me of nausea and relentless discomfort, my stomach turning even at the smell of bread. It reminds me, too, of desperate thankfulness. Talking to God over meals like sustenance meant everything, begging for a taste of something good, trying to grasp that man doesn’t live by bread alone, but that he does live by bread partly, and that such a thing isn’t always granted.
I guess I’m recalling the good of remembering. Not just passively recalling, but really being thrust into it. I am remembering remembrance. The way it can save a person in its most heroic moments. The way God set pillars of stones around plain land because something not plain had happened there, and the children needed to know.
The other day, I smelled Fall. Real, crisp, snapping Fall through an open window. It was a cluster of memories, and it was my present and maybe even my future, too, all settling over me as I easily pumped my leg, sitting in the rocker. Life is remembering itself, and I am remembering so many significant and insignificant things, appreciating them all.