Do Smells have Names?
I woke up in the middle of the night because I thought I smelled him. They say you can't 'feel' smell but I felt it heavy on my skin. I felt him on my skin. It travelled from my nose to the back of my head, slowly caressing its way down my spine and then suddenly - that feeling, that smell vanished just as quickly as it had arrived. Few days later I smelled him again. It hit me at an odd moment. Standing in the moving subway. Somewhere between 51 St Station and Astor Pl on the 6 Train. Even after almost two years of living here, I am still surprised by how carefully, strangers inside NY subway avoid touching each other. Even in crowded moments, even when you are carrying heavy luggage, you have to maneuver your way around people - around bodies. It felt strange smelling him while I avoided my leg scraping the leg of the woman standing next to me. I felt like someone had touched me - even when people around me avoided touching each other.
I was so scared when I was on my way to Brooklyn to meet him for the second time! New York is a lot like New Delhi. People are obsessed with what exciting spots you are going to next. Or who you hang with. Quick to tell you whose parties to avoid. Perhaps I thought I was becoming a New Yorker too? Which is why I thought I was going to be an unnecessary addition to an equally unnecessary clique at your home.
When I was going to meet him again, I decided to leave the apartment that I was staying in absolutely drunk. I needed courage. I needed a little lack of direction even when I was clinging desperately to the directions to his house! Somewhere on the 4 Train, I started listening to music on full volume. Sometime before Borough Hall I noticed two desi girls loudly gesturing at each other and people around them noticing. I took my earphones off and overheard one girl shouting loudly in Hindi, "I think we are supposed to get off here?" and the other one say "Where have we come!?" ("yeh kahan aa gaye hum"). Then a white woman offered to help and after talking to her, they got off at the next stop. I wanted to run behind them! I wanted to tell them that I was lost too! That I knew where I was headed but didn't know why I was headed to that place!
God, what is with me and constantly living in nostalgia! When I started talking about figuring out the subway with him, I instantly thought about someone else. I wanted his responses to be the same as that 'someone else'. Because that 'someone else' is an urbanist. Lolz. Ever since meeting that 'someone else' - I carry him wherever I go. I want to experience places the same way he does! Alas! I could never create memories with Crown Heights because Lajpat Nagar got in my way. I think that 'someone else' was the first guy I told my caste to. I don't usually bring that up on dates. You know...cause I am still ashamed of mine, even when I pretend that I am not anymore. And then him. He was the second guy I told my caste to. On a first date. And I tell everyone now. But I immediately feel exhausted after I tell people. Like I have given something intimate away? But I didn't feel exhausted with that 'someone else'. Sigh. People move on. Wait, where was I?
|New York, December 2019|