In her memoir, Motherland, Fern Schumer Chapman writes that "smells [...] may be the last thing on earth to die." I am reminded of that quote every time I encounter a scent that reminds me of my father. Nothing incapacitates me quicker or plunges me into the past deeper than an aroma. It's as though every other sense has gradually weakened while my olfactory sense has intensified. All I need is a sudden inhalation of men's cologne, and a man I buried almost seven years ago comes to life with a vivid and unsettling power. When I miss my father, it's not his clothes I reach for, it is his cologne. I search for my father through scent and that is where I always know I can find him.
The cologne is stowed away in a dresser drawer. I have the bottles lying in a shoe box alongside his shaving kit. I still remember the way the bathroom smelled after he took a shower, how his aftershave perfumed the air for hours. I used to just breathe that scent in, and I felt he was part of me. I remember his clean-shaven face and also the times when he had a beard, which tickled my face when he kissed me. I can see his face as I write this. I am crying but I am also smiling. I've found him again, I have brought him back.