The Scent of the City


As I returned to Taipei, I’d felt, that this city, is filled up, with an assortment of scents.

There’s, that wreak of urine, mixed in with the air fresheners, inside the public restrooms. In the aged stairways and inside the restaurants, the scent of grease. There’s that scent of mold and mildew, from the closets I’d not opened, in quite awhile. There’s the smell of guys’ sweat on the busses and the MRTs too. There’s the exhaust from the cars on the streets in the daytime, mixed in with the smell of gasoline and smoking, in the evenings, came the aromatic tuberose. There’s the smell of the sun, from the dried up clothes hung outside. The street down below, smelled like dirt and tarp, as the rain was, about to fall, making me nauseated, and excited at the same time.

The scent came from the kitchens, the basements, the garbage trucks, and the ditches outside. You can’t see it, touch it, and yet, it is, everywhere. We all have, unique scents, walked along, in the streets of this, scented city, we’re all like, those bottles, with scents kept in, waiting, for Grenouille from Suskind’s “Perfume”, to name us.

Strange, that we’d had so many different, so many, layered smells, but, there are, only a handful of words, used to, describe the scents. In Polish, there’s the words for describing the simple smells, the aromatic, scents that we enjoyed smelling, and there’s another term, used to describe something that wreaked. Comparing, there’s only the “scent” and “breath of air” in Chinese, and, if we wanted to, stress them, we can only add the descriptive adjective in front, like the “scent of dead fish” or the smell of the rain”, or “that scent of oldness”.

Is the scents richer in Poland? I don’t think so. Although, Krakow had the scents of the fruits, the flowers, the leaves, the coffees, the stench from beers, cigarettes, and an assortment of food (mostly, it’s soups or stewed meats, and the cooked potato with dill), the stench of the river, the smelly sinks, the sweetness from the trout, the body odor of that homeless man, riding the bus………but, there seemed, to be, this lacking of oomph, that’s not at all strong enough. Maybe, it’s because I wasn’t from around here, so, I’m not as sensitive toward the scents.

In Krakow, I’d smelled a rancid kind of flower, but, at first, I’d known, that it was, from a flower. One morning when I woke, there was, this scent of rotten leaves, wood, or fruit, that’s, gotten into my balcony. I’d not known what it was, just recalled, that I kept, smelling it, back as a child, that it was, very, nostalgic. I kept, searching for the source, the origin of this scent, later on, as I walked onto the streets, I saw the rows of myrtle.

After the myrtles withered away, there’s, that light refreshing scent of the osmanthus. I’d, greedily, whiffed in these aromas, like Grenouille. But, I’m not like Grenouille, in order to create that perfect perfume, driven, to murder. I loved the assortments of scents in Taipei, it’d become, a sort of, a naturally mixed up perfume already.

So, this, is how sensory memories can lead to recalling things, because, although the sensory memories are only few short seconds long, but, once you’d incorporated it into your systems, it’s there, to stay.


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