My scent memory sucks.

Last Friday, I bought some Aveeno Stress relief lotion before going to work. The bottle claims it’s scented with lavender, chamomile, and ylang-ylang oils. It smells slightly medicinal and slightly floral. I rubbed it into my hands several times over the course of the morning, and I kept getting wiffs of it during my work as I flipped papers or reached for the phone, and it tugged at my gut for some reason. I was curious, but not quite sure why.

About an hour into a training session, I allowed my mind to wander a bit. I rested my chin on my hand and breathed in the scent. After a particularly deep inhale, I was filled with this overwhelming scent of nostalgia – like I was aching for some sense of warmth and comfort of a better time. Or maybe it was a a yearning for the sadness of a time before. My mom had bought the same lotion years earlier and I remember stealing pumps from the bottle she kept hidden in the bathroom cabinet.

It occurred to me that I wasn’t aching for the comfortable happiness of an earlier time, but it was right on the edge of my consciousness. I couldn’t describe the moment I was trying to recall – not even the general period. When had I first used this lotion? High school? Early college? The smell reminded me of tears – curling beneath a blanket, my arms wrapped in a thick sweater, my bare toes cold, and me both adoring and hating my grief. Maybe I was in a drugged haze – a thick cloud of painkillers after getting my wisdom teeth removed – a gauzy cloud of painkillers, craving coffee and the buttery side of toast but lacking the motivation to get it.

I’m still unable to place the memory. The scent is almost strangulating at this point, but I don’t know where to place it. It’s really bothering me. I even asked my mom when she first bought the lotion.

“I don’t know. Years ago?” she replied, not really understanding what I was asking.

After considering my own bathroom, I realize this is a fairly ridiculous thing to ask a woman. I’m currently in possession of about 20-30 different hair, skin, and makeup products, none of which I’ll remember in five years. Sure, the L’oreal shampoo I bought last week smells amazing and the Mary Kay mascara works pretty well, but I’m probably not going to be able to recall when I first bought either of the products.

Anyway, I’m not really sure of the point of the post, other than to invite speculation. I keep the bottle of lotion at my desk, so I’m hoping that one of these days I’ll remember why the scent makes my heart feel like it’s being tugged at. Isn’t that a strange sensation? Feeling your heart being pulled? If I focus enough, I can induce that sense of melancholia. It’s the all energy in my chest being thrown in a single direction and knocking into something. It’s not exactly a bad feeling, it’s just something I can’t place my finger on.

Till I figure it out, I’ll keep stressing out over my anti-stress lotion.

I used to be a nostalgic person.

Good god. I love that sentence. For more reasons than one.

It just a few years ago when I furiously scribbled in a notebook about how special I felt the night I wore a swirly boatneck tank and Eric told me, breathless, “You look amazing.” For years, I hung onto a piece of torn neon green paper to remember when Jon taught me to play cribbage while we drank mint juleps at the rented cottage. My heart gets a little sore whenever I listen to disco, because I remember the nights I spent dancing and kissing Bill between sets.

I feel like I’m not investing as deeply into my life right now. Maybe it’s because I’m not forging memories with somebody right now. Maybe it’s because for the first time in my adult life, I’m doing this all on my own. At the moment, I have no perspective on my immediate life, not that it’s possible anyway. But even back when Eric and I lied on our stomachs, watching the rain in the streetlights, I knew I was experiencing a moment I would remember forever. I don’t ache to solidify moments anymore.

My moments are an endless series of facades – like I’m just passing by it all. Life has turned into a collection of muted repeats – the same drive to work, the same cubicle, the same empty bed at night. Weekends offer a bit of variation, giving me glimpses of striking honesty and glee with my friends. Where are the moments that I’ll be able to look back five years from now and tell what temperature it was, what song was playing, how my mouth tasted, or what sounds were echoing off the streets?

I think this is part of growing up. Though the moments I described above happened in the same order, the vividness of the memories is reversed. It was late evening and Eric’s bedroom was filled with this cool amber light. He rarely turned a fan on because he said it made it warmer, so my face was damp with perspiration. The neighbors across the street were talking loudly, but it all seemed to fade out when he looked at me that way. Later that night, Eric would give me a copy of Wuthering Heights and we’d spend twenty minutes saying goodbye, stopping to kiss on the stairs, in the dining room, in the living room, and on the porch.

I know that Jon crushed the mint leaves and the whiskey made me shudder. The windows were open and the air was steady with the hum of boat motors. His breath smelt lightly of cigarette smoke as he jotted notes on the piece of paper he had found in a drawer. We went to bed early, he played sudoku while I read a book – Anna Karenina, I think. The next morning, he brought me coffee and we ate powdered donuts and did a few games of sudoku in bed before we went on a hike.

Bill is different. He played so many gigs that most of them blend into one. I would either go to the bar with him to set up, or I’d go later on, joining a friend on the dance floor. I liked to watch him play – he always seemed so focused on the music that I was surprised when he would catch my eye and grin. At the end of the set, he would walk over to wherever I was sitting and give me a hug that stunk lightly of sweat, polyester, and the Dolce & Gabanna cologne we picked out together. I remember feeling this strange sensation – a mix of excitement, affection, and pride – when he came over. I felt most at home when his arm was around me, but my favorite part of the night was after we had loaded his drums into my car, when we finally slipped into my twin-sized bed, our bodies laced together, and slept until 11 the next morning.

The memories are all still there and to illustrate them, I obviously have to fabricate some details, but it’s easiest with Eric and hardest with Bill. Maybe it was the length of the relationships – it’s harder to process two years than three months. Maybe my my brain chemistry was different at 18 than at 23. Maybe it’s self-preservation; I’ve become hardened and have subconsciously decided that shallow memories will hurt less than visceral ones.

I think romance just lends itself to nostalgia. While I’m actually very happy to be writing two nights in a row, it doesn’t make for a very memorable night. Maybe someday I’ll hear an Alison Krauss song and remember when I lit candles and popped off the cap of a hard cider before opening my laptop. And maybe I’ll be filled with a warm contentedness when I remember my apartment smelling like a late autumn rain and a peppermint candle.

For now though, this dreary weather and melancholy music just makes me think of times before. Not in a way that makes me depressed, mind you. I’m appreciative. I’m glad to have such charming moments to recall.