My mum carefully handed me the small glass bottle. “Here,” she said softly, gesturing for me to open it.
I nodded, gently removed the dropper, and inhaled the perfume. My reaction to it was physical: my solar plexus felt tight with the recognition of the familiar aroma. Before I could control my response, I felt the tears pour from my eyes. “I… can’t…,” I stuttered, handing her back the bottle.
My mother nodded at me, her lips crumbling as she fought to hold back her own tears. She replaced the perfume bottle back onto the table with the other personal possessions – a watch, some rings, and an unfinished crossword – and wandered into the adjoining room.
I turned to face the window, the warm tears marking my face as they travelled down my cheeks. I had hoped the bright sunlight streaming in through the glass would somehow distract me from the pain, but all it did was make my eyes even more sore. Looking down onto the street below, I could see the snow covering the sidewalk of my youth. I smiled, remembering how all us kids used to be out there for hours, no matter what season: playing baseball in the Fall; in sledges in the winter; on skateboards in spring; or just jumping into the spray of a fire hydrant when the heat of summer became too intense. We used to hang on the railings at the end of the block and marvel at the towering skyline: it was a picture-postcard of excitement to us children; an unexplored big city, filled with adventure. Now with the biggest buildings gone, the skyline forever changed, and the street permanently bereft of children playing outside, it was a poignant reminder of how much things can change.
She would regularly lean out of the window, calling down to us as we played, making sure the local kids were looking after me. Upstairs afterwards, giggling over a cup of tea, I would regale to her tales of my exciting adventures outside; later, of course, I would have her in hysterics with my descriptions of uneventful dates or unproductive shags. A part of me felt that as long as I looked out that same window, I could somehow pause the present, and replace it with the happy memories of my past. If only I could swallow the lump in my throat, it would all be a dream. Maybe if I wiped the tears away, the pained feeling in my heart would disappear. I could turn around, find her behind me, and crack a joke - and then everything would be OK.
I focussed on the blue sky outside, attempting to memorise its hue. Like that memorial, the sun seemed to be a metaphor: a rebirth of life after death. With the aroma of her perfume still in the air, and the image of the sky imprinted on my mind, I took a deep breath and wiped my eyes. And then I turned around; leaving my already-fading memories to dissipate into the cold, clear, sunlight behind me.