Monday, November 21, 2011

Sweet Stench

Pages turn before me; I miss her. I miss the memory of her, the idea of her. I miss what could have been.

Pixilated stills and a few videos stream in from the past, but the sound is dull and the image is unclear. I can’t pinpoint my age. Heck, I can’t even recall if we ever had this conversation anywhere besides the kitchen.

“Do you want to practice?” she asks, every time I remember it.

“Kako-si nana,” I repeat syllable by syllable, the little version of me sits, giggling over the roll of foreign vibrations on my tongue, before scribbling phonetic cues along the lines of my tiny notepad.

“Dobro Hvala,” she replies, her arm rhythmically circling a stockpot, activating the sweet stench of vegetable soup. Moving from the pot to the oven, she withdraws a tray covered with perfectly burnt caramelized cherry turnovers, and she sets them out to cool.

Then, the scene goes black.

I wish I remembered what came next. I wish I could hear her voice louder than the logic of my memory, but her figure is hazy and her sound is nothing more than a hum. Everything I remember has been replaced by the smell of soup and the sweet taste of tart and butter.

I wrote about her once, a story that wasn’t even true. I rewrote a teenage love story. I rewrote the final days. I made her understand me. I wrote 5,000 words about a character bursting with the acceptance and pride I always wanted her to feel about me. Scanning those pages, I realize I can’t remember what’s true anymore. I can hardly see her face. I can hardly remember what she was like before Alzheimers devoured her spirit.

I wish she would have known me better. I wish I would have known her. I wish I had asked her everything my inquisitive mind could have ever thought to ask. I wish I could have stained the canvas with something that lasts bit longer than dust. I bet we had some things in common—something more than soup and tarts. I remember she played football with the boys on the farm. I remember that during The Depression she and my Aunt Jo used to share a can of corn for dinner—I tell that story every single year when I teach To Kill A Mockingbird. And I remember that she liked to tell stories. She liked everyone to turn and listen as she sank her voice, or shifted her accent, her eyes rising as a mischievous smile spread across her cheeks. The fairy tales always started off the same way, but by the time she arrived at the end, they became something far more entertaining than Hans Christian Anderson probably ever dreamed.

I wish we could have swapped ideas, bantering and conjecturing, recounting stories with hyperbolic flair. I wish I would have tried harder. I wish I would have opened up. And I wish I remembered more than the sweet stench of vegetable soup and the tantalizing taste of caramelized cherries.

1 comment:

  1. This was extraordinarily soulful. I am in that kitchen, smelling that soup, and tasting your regret. My favorite line: "I wish I could have stained the canvas with something that lasts bit longer than dust."