Thursday, December 29, 2011

The scent of memories

It was the day after Christmas and proof of my yellow fever vaccination was nowhere to be found.

I have never been a scrapbooker, but trinkets have always traveled with me. Boarding passes, receipts from excellent meals, pieces of paper that speak to me and tell me I should hold on to them. I pulled out the blue envelope that contained the mementos of that year. The paper inside still smells like Guatemala.

I found the first love note he wrote me. For "the girl out there with love in her eyes and flowers in her hair."

I found the luggage tags from the trip that brought me to Cairo on the day we met.

I found a first draft of the curriculum I designed for the post-conflict reintegration of ex-combatants into peacetime communities (complete with spelling errors in Spanish and not a single accent in the right place).

I found a farewell note Karen wrote me, complete with references to the musical Rent we were all listening to when we were frantically trying to pack my bags.

I found bank notes from places that have re-plunged themselves into conflict.

I found the side effects of malaria pills, right next to a to-do list with a quote at the top.

I found a poem my mother had sent me, in a moment of lucidity and affection. Ρω is short for Ρωξάνη, my name in Greek. The poem is called "τα Ρω του Έρωτα", the Ro's in eros. My mother's note read "I looked through Elytis' words for the lines he probably wrote about you."

More farewell cards. A photo signed by the ex-combatants who participated in my first workshop in Spanish. Another hospital check-out form, this time for dengue fever. A hotel room keycard from the first shared vacation. Another boarding pass that served as a bookmark.

I found 2009 and 2010. Clumsy beginnings, shy flutterings, recovery. I found the scent of hurricanes. I did not find the vaccination card. But, amidst the papers whose edges were curled by rain, I found the company of my younger self and the gift of beautiful life the road had given her.

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