There are layers and layers of missing.
The first ones you tiptoe around by sinking your teeth hard into chunks of work, allowing yourself no space to breathe. For the next ones, you remember Elizabeth George’s latest schizophrenic character; and no, you don’t draw angels on your walls (you would, if you could), you stick your earphones into your ears and play music. Pity all of it makes you miss more.
As you reach the last layers, you distract yourself. Me, I go perfume shopping once in a while. There are things I know and I want, things I want but won’t get. There are new things to try. The salesperson as usual is eager to help. ‘Try this one,’ he says. ‘You don’t even have to buy it this time if you don’t want to. Maybe later.’ And if you’re me, or as fond of them perfumes as I am, you will not resist the temptation.
You shrug and say maybe yes, maybe no. Maybe you buy, maybe you’re out of money till the end of the month. The man makes you sniff perfume after perfume, after coffee, after perfume again.
‘Try this on your skin,’ he says. And you do. You sniff at your wrists on your way home and grin to yourself. There’s something about the left one, particularly, that makes you smile.
You sit down to work, mental feet firmly planted in the page at hand and you sniff once again. And it’s her. It’s her perfume, all over again, in the darkness of the cinema hall, her perfume under the trees, her perfume wafting towards you in the middle of a conversation. It’s her perfume, with flashbacks of the colour of her shawl on which you smelt it; of the curve of her shoulders when she was walking ahead and you asked her what it was.
It’s all of her, suddenly, and you stare at a wall and for the life of you can’t remember which of the perfumes the salesperson showed you it is.