The month of August has a definite smell to it… late summer mixed with a hint of fall and a dash of sweltering humidity,. It’s the kind of heat that when combined with a massive dew point is basically Mother Nature giving you a free steam bath and facial.
My childhood identified August by the fresh green scent of mowed grass, hints of honeysuckle and something yummy spattering and spitting on the outdoor grill. On extremely hot and sticky days there was a subtle undertone of grandma’s basement no matter where one was. In my late teens these smells were augmented by vinegar and heavenly french fries fresh from the fryer, a waft of funnel cakes dripping powdered sugar and, depending on the way the wind was blowing, a salty shot of ocean breeze or the heavy musky scent of bay waters. Even after all these year, no matter where I may be, these are the smells of August.
Odors and memory are tightly linked and can bring on strong emotions. Most years I sniff the August air, identify real or barely there imagined smells, and memories dance around the fringes of my mind. The strongest ones loom large but remain passive and content to hang about in the background, peeking around the corner but leaving me be. Most years…
August also has a soundtrack, a musical collage from that particular year in my late teens. Sometimes, usually in August, one of these songs will randomly begin playing in my head, as loud and as real as if a radio had suddenly been turned on. It’s been almost forever but that radio came to life again earlier this month. These artists and songs were the background to that one defining moment that changed my life forever. Every turn I made before that, every decision, every step taken, from my birth to that very moment, led me to that single second in time.
Every step taken since then has been defined by that split second. Before And After. Who I was then is not who I am now and yet, she lives on still, dancing in the shadows. So young, so innocent and hopeful, believing anything was possible, she embraced the best of that moment, that summer, which in the rear view mirror of time was simply perfect until it wasn’t anymore.
Everything happens for a reason and who am I to know if God planned everything to make me who I am now. Perhaps unbearable pain and longing that has never quite gone away was the only thing that would mold me into the person now typing this random missive to send out to the electronic ether. If that’s the case, I am grateful because I like me. I’m pretty awesome. I just wish there had been an easier way.
And so, as August comes to an end, I can smell a hint of the cloying sweetness of honeysuckle with a whisper of dank salty wetlands. As a sweat ball rolls off my nose, I can hear that old summer soundtrack far off in the distance, haunting and bittersweet… and like the radio in my head that clicks itself on every now and again, I will just leave this here, a little Prince And The Revolution “I Would Die 4 U” from Purple Rain, randomly.