Smell You Later

Olfaction is the only of The Five Senses to pass through the amygdala and hippocampus. These areas of the brain process and interact with emotion and our memory bank. As a result, memories clocked by nose outlast those made with our eyes, our hands, our tongues.

Lately, I’ve felt like a toddler, curiously plunging in and sniffing up marbles, oblivious to the consequences until I’m bloody snout-smacked in the ER with heavy, glassed-in memories of my late brother.

Makes sense.

— — —

When Landon died I couldn’t shake the movie scenes after a character is killed off. The remaining loved-ones threw themselves, sniffers first, into sneaker inserts still-imprinted, pillow cases still-warm, bath towels still-wet, as if they were police K9s tasked with finding the milk carton kid. They’d lap up any stink of the deceased and I watched their dripping, panicked sinuses dry and pacify from something it dealt, something they felt.

So I gave it a go.

The grey flannel was a staple during his last few weeks and my immediate first claim to Landon Conservation. However, within a week of closet adoption, it gave in to the peerfumed pressure of hanger neighbors. His Galaxy sweatshirt is worn religiously, swallowing me like a BFG hug, but it also resigned traces of him ten washes back.

When I really want to smell Landon unadulterated and unDownyed, I pop the clam mouth of his closet doors and make an assembly line of the frequently-worns, trying to flex muzzle memory. Max, our 12-year-old, couch-potato of a Labrador Retriever, lays in the corner, offering me critique by eyebrow, disappointment from a natural, professional and veteran whiffer.

But I don’t have to get nosy to know of his ghost anymore. Instead I divinely call on an allergy plague that’ll render me tasteless, that’ll muzzle-mute the offerings of a five-star restaurant.

Landon? No. No.

365 Whole Foods’ shampoo — Landon’s hair was a barber-exalted vision. In his own brand of affection, he’d zonk his forehead on my shoulder and the squishy tumbleweed would dive-bomb me into a minty swamp of curls. I can’t use the shampoo remains, but I can’t remove the bottle from our shower either.

Landon? No. No.
  • His room. What little attention Landon gave personal hygiene was at the price of bedroom order. After hours behind the refuge of a closed door, murky air gasped and staggered out at the open, dragging the carnage of musk and dew. Despite the loyalty hours clocked to his beloved room, its startling how quickly this space forgot the fragrance of its former. No one’s here. It’s just a room. Just a room.
Landon? No. No.

Marijuana smoke. Schizo awakened, Mania summoned. When I studied abroad, my roommate and I took a weekend in Amsterdam. Everyone would think Paige and I stayed posted up in the inescapable haze of Amsterdam’s “coffee shops,” clinking joints like coffee mugs. I spent my energy, face fixed in a turtleneck, mentally uncrocheting a stomach of yarn, whipping my head around corners with emotional fists at the ready, looking for Landon, waiting for combat.

Landon? No. No.

Some mornings I’ll run the blender and Landon’s sleepy, breakfast breath bubbles up mid-whip. “Good morning, Bubs.” After slurping, he’d plant icy, sticky lips on the side of my face and my cheek would smell like bananas and peanut butter until noon. “Good morning, Sissy.”

I smell him everywhere he isn’t.

If sensation-mirages are permitted for amputees after losing a limb, why wouldn’t I experience phantom-fragrances after losing a Landon? Our Landon. My baby brother, Landon.

Landon? No. No.

But like the cabin-fever migraine post-perfume sampling, I’m begging him to hand me a jar of coffee beans to clear a sopping palette.