A Perfume Named Nostalgia
Memories branch the past and present. Through four vignettes, this piece documents the continuities of life and the importance of revisiting and appreciating past experiences through olfaction.
This is the Friday ritual, and it feels like happiness. This emotion has become rarer in a world where lockdowns and social distancing define daily life. But not tonight. In my corner of the universe, fear and uncertainty have given way to nostalgia. This is the Friday ritual, and I am picking which Disney movie to watch with my cousin. Or in better words, my best friend. Her perfume enters the room before she does. I’ll never forget that scent, and yet I can’t describe it. The fragrance lingers throughout the evening and laughs along with us. Warm, sweet, cozy, carefree, and familiar. It smells like happiness.
This is my serene summer sanctuary, and it feels like comfort. The gravel crunches below my feet as the symphony of the sea grows louder. The waves collide with the rock wall and the ocean breeze hugs me like a familiar friend as I descend the staircase. The third step of the staircase welcomes me again as I watch the sky explode in vibrant hues of pink and purple before giving way to a crescent moon that illuminates a starry sky. There is not a soul for miles – it’s just me and the nautical nighttime. But a familiar scent wafts through the salty sea air and finds me again. Peace, calm, adventure, stability. It smells like comfort.
This is uncharted territory, and it feels uneasy. My leg bounces against the floorboard. I sit and wait for my first interview ever. On Zoom. My laptop stares at me and I glare back. I pick my nails. I play with my earrings. My fingers are quickly tapping against my desk. Again, that scent is here. Waiting for the host to let me in. Cool air tickles my ears. The air conditioner blasts at a cool 68 degrees—just how I like it. Only this time it smells like worry. Smells like the picking of nails, the twisting on my rings, the bounce of my right leg. It smells like nervousness.
This is my perfume named nostalgia. A scent that bridges the past and the present – memory and reality. Each year fortifies our friendship. From the time I learned how to walk to here, right now as I’m writing this, she stays with me—tied together like an invisible string. She is a thoughtful companion throughout the different seasons of my life, and she silently bears witness to my personal trials, triumphs, grief, and growth. In every season of life, we embrace each other with open arms and eagerly share the details of our latest adventures. These conversations unfold without a single word. There are no words imaginable that can fully capture the essence of this aroma. This scent is everywhere. In all my memories. Unlike others who remember their lives in photos, I remember my life by whiffs of my bittersweet perfume. An aroma of everything. All my life is encapsulated by this scent. It simply smells like me.
I have always felt a strong connection between memories and smell in my life. After reading about the Proust effect, I was inspired to write about this connection I felt with the aroma of my cousin’s perfume. I wanted to write about how this scent holds such importance in my life, I associate it with all I have experienced thus far. Working with my mentor, Samantha Holmes, truly made my love for writing grow as this piece developed. We really wanted to connect this scent to my life and add abstract symbolism by humanizing the scent.
Adrianna Du is a sophomore who has crooked fingers. She loves to volunteer in her school club and writes in her journal daily. In her free time, she reads fiction novels, at the moment her favorite is “Love and Other Words” by Christina Lauren. When she is not reading, she is crocheting!