The Aroma of Naivety
by Stephanie N.
(Marietta, Gerogia, U.S.A.)
I squint at the narrow street below as the remaining cars saunter away, the sun melting into the distant hills. I figure it'll take five more minutes to walk back to my room, leaving me just one hour of precious free time. I cross the wide bridge hurriedly, eyes scanning the elegant scenery for one last time. Tonight is my last. Tomorrow, home.
It came out of nowhere. There really is no logical explanation, except that maybe everything happened in just exactly the right way, creating a phenomenon. I stopped dead. My brain was assaulted with a scent that was both so familiar and so unexpected, dust and heat and stale foreign air rolled into one. The smell was one I wouldn't have expected to encounter on this continent in my lifetime.
I was five. The unremitting dust of the ancient streets billowed up in clouds under the feet of toddlers, prancing joyfully in their tattered shirts and sandals. Door-less, windowless shops, connected at the walls, displayed piles of pots and plastic basins, stacked high against mottled gray walls. The bare sun beat down mercilessly upon the littered street. Reclining against bamboo chairs, old men fanned themselves, shirts flipped up, as they talked and laughed.
The beauty of the scene evaded me. My eyes fastened upon the sole object of my interest -- a large blue cooler filled with a variety of frozen treats. I could imagine the taste of sweet ice cream on my parched throat, and I gulped noisily, glancing up at my grandma. Seeing my expression, she relented, buying my sister and me a sweet bean popsicle, the wrapper encrusted with tiny ice crystals. Each bite was fantastically cold, a chunky bite of bliss sliding down my throat.
A gust of fresh, earthen air brings me back. I continue my walk, slowly this time. How refreshing to be so young and naïve once more! That was the time when nothing mattered. Trivial problems constituted as worries, and my path was blameless, my slate clean. I wish, with something deeper than my heart, that I might relive that just once more. I realize, unsteadily, that I am wishing with my innocence, hoping that it might exist again in its pure form, as clean and delicate as a smooth white egg untouched by activity and time.
Something more lies within that memory, an enlightening. Here I stand, wishing for the past. But this, now, is the past. It is the past of my future. Someday, I will stand, awed, as my senses are assaulted with the scent of innocence- not pure innocence from that of a child, pristine. No, I will inhale what once was and is now- a polluted naivety, tainted with the people of this earth. But innocence just the same.
Memories are not made to be remembered- they're made to be lived. From this moment on, I will cling to the present with my heart, soul, and fingertips.