“Memories, imagination, old sentiments, and associations are more readily reached through the sense of smell than through any other channel.” –Oliver Wendell Holmes
One afternoon, in Junior High, I sat on my best friend’s driveway with her. We sat on the warm cement talking about boys and music and whatever else was important to our barely-formed selves. We watched cars drive past and her cat at it pounced around the yard. Slowly and softly, rain began to sprinkle down on us. We laid down, sprawled on the gray slab, side by side. We lay still and talked, letting the rain fall steadier and harder on us. The ground warmed us for a while, until we steadily grew colder and damper. We ignored her mother’s requests to come inside and stayed still. We let the driveway grow wet, dark, shiny around us. When we finally gave in and fled the chill, we stood up to examine our handiwork: two pale bodies, laying side by side, silhouetted by the rain. We watched drops splotch over our images which eventually disappeared completely into the wetness.
Tonight I drove home with my window down, taking in the smell that can never be fully captured. When I ran home at lunch today, my car was hot and stuffy, barely bearable even with the air conditioner blowing. By the time I left, gray had covered the city and darkness had fallen early. As sprinkles hit my windshield, I could smell it beginning. I opened the window and reveled in the memories and peace of the beginning of rain.
Nothing on earth smells as good, smells as safe, smells as comforting as rain on a warm sidewalk. I inhaled so deeply that my lungs could have burst through my ribs. I could not breathe in enough of the smell, could not possibly take in enough of the air around me. It is warm and sweet, clean and alive. I remember the smell drifting through the screen door of my childhood home, hearing the rain begin to lightly hit the fiberglass roof over our patio. I am suddenly sitting in our living room, in front of the big window, watching the world be bathed. I remember sitting outside at lunch in high school, sitting inside for lunch in elementary school. I am back on that warm driveway, sharing life with my best friend. The smell is safety. I feel at home, draped in a blanket of memories, warmed by a simpler time.
Our outlines did not last. They were quickly blurred and disappeared. The smell of rain drifts away as the clouds continue to drop, lasting only long enough to be missed. The moments, the smell, are fleeting. The memories are indelible.
“Let the rain kiss you. Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops. Let the rain sing you a lullaby.” –Langston Hughes