Years ago Mary had made me watch Perfume- The Story of a Murderer, of course it was something we were doing back then, movies and only movies, minds that were still so young, almost a tabula rasa, we couldn't help but appreciate the beauty of that cinema. Mary was like that, obsessed with smells, her anglo name never made me look at her in an exotic way but she was different. She could smell more than normal people. I remember how she called herself a bitch, for that specific 'skill-set' of smells, and to her I smelled good. It was the best compliment I received in my adolescent life.
I don't remember why we fell apart as the years rolled down, I had a little crush on her, but she was always interested in the big boys; may be it was me who decided to keep a distance, but I don't recall at all how we moved apart and I was a bit stupefied when she called me up a few months ago and asked me to help her to study maps and make a sense out of them. Its always awkward when you get a call from someone you had loved a little when you were young, and it's somewhat bittersweet remembering that she remembers the things you were good at.
I made her download google maps and asked her to fidget a little. I almost get offended when people don't embrace such beautiful technologies our time has to offer. When she told me that she was trying to write a paper on World War II and it was very important for her to understand the lands and the maps, I decided to be more helpful.
A few meetings later we were again comfortable with each other, at least she was, I felt awkward because she had become prettier from what I remembered of her; we mostly talked about the old days, the smell of seasons and armpits, how the fish markets smelled more chemical now, how her capacity to smell has subdued with the years among other things, her solo Ladakh trip, how she intends to write a book full of beautiful anecdotes on smell and only smell- her own smell dictionary in the lines of Baudelaire; I was a little curious if this dream girl was seeing someone - she hardly puts anything up on facebook and you never ask such a question like that- age has taught you alright, but the years have also taught you not to prevaricate and be smart, listen to what she is saying, I could hear telling myself. And I listened to her alright, she hardly bored me. Days passed quickly and soon we were meeting or talking over the internet most days. I was always looking to impress her, trying my best not to be a show-off at the same time. I was really glad she wasn't much active on Facebook, then she would see all my shit- that so called awesome life we all intend to put up in the world of illusions, that place where everyone is so happy that they all end up being miserable.
Amidst one of our online map browsing rendezvous she asked me, about my opinion on "how the allied front should advance to Germany through Belgium"- what could she write on this thought, she had some ideas which she told me but she said she didn't like them, and when I heard her ideas I told her I agree with her- but here I was trying to impress her, and here was my chance; this was a serious question, and the imagining of alternate history let alone military strategy was never my forte. The 'Third Reich' is a game that I had only tried to play in a Roberto Bolano novel.
"Get to work stupid boy."
A few hours later, I came up with an idea, which was neither very scientific nor well researched- what good writing demands is often a wacky sort of a wit, my professor used to say, but I suspected he was talking about copywriting; but nevertheless it could be something Mary could work on, and if it involves smells she might just like it and use it to her advantage.
"From Calamine to Cologne - An alternate history of smells during the allied invasion".
You see the Belgian town of Kelmis (La Calamine) is about a hundred kilometre away from the German town of Cologne, two cities with two distinct histories of things that smell, the soldiers wouldn't miss it even amidst all the gunpowder and ash; there could be a little magic too and Mary would write all about the smells- if there was no war there, Mary could bring it through her writing, but the war was everywhere - it was a World War. It was in Calamine, it was in Cologne.
She did like it, she replied "wow" and as of now I kind of had to settle for being her co-author instead of her lover. Art demands a lot of sacrifices.