Well that sounds revolting, I think to myself, noticing the sign propped up on the wonky trestle table beside the artisan bread stall. This farmer’s market has really gone downhill recently. The only smell I’m interested in wafts deliciously towards me from the vegan street food cart; I head towards it after I accept my paper-wrapped loaf of spelt sourdough.
“Smell your memories, dearie?”
I’m stopped in my tracks by the appeal of the tiny, wizened woman behind the table, so small that I had thought she were a pile of coats. Realising she has caught my attention, she treats me to a toothless smile and I recoil. How disgusting. I’ve totally lost my appetite for the hot falafel wrap after seeing that.
“Special offer, dearie. Five memories for a pound.”
I’m so incensed by her very existence that I swing back around to face her. “How on earth can someone smell their memories?”
She smiles again, amused by my confrontational stance. “Only one way to find out my love.”
“For God’s sake.” I fumble in my handbag for cash; she’s clearly not set up for contactless. I feel compelled to see what this ridiculous notion is all about and if nothing else it will give Conrad a kick when I relay the story to him later. He’s always telling me to be more spontaneous.
She pockets my money and folds out a garden chair.
“Here? Right in the market?” I feel foolish. What if someone I know sees me?
“Shush. Sit and close your eyes.”
I roll my eyes before closing them, experiencing extreme buyer’s remorse. “So how does this work? Do I choose the memories or…?”
I stop suddenly, overtaken by a scent of warm leather and artificial pine. “My dad’s old car!” I exclaim, transported back in time. Me and my brothers wearing shorts on a hot day, laughing at the thwack as we unpeeled our bare legs from the sticky seats. I can tangibly feel the sting of red raw skin and hear my brothers laughing as we inflict the pain upon ourselves again and again.
Next comes a wave of cigarette smoke, stale beer and vinegary chips; unmistakably the clubhouse from the caravan park we went to every summer. I wouldn’t be seen dead there now of course but young me loved it, and used to inhale that heady combination greedily, pronouncing it the best smell in all the world. Was that really me?
Before I can reflect on that, the delicious aroma of sun cream and garlic brings back my first holiday abroad with the girls – such a shame we lost touch – followed by the overly-sweet aftershave of my first boyfriend. I’d finished with him when I moved to London. But that’s natural, right? Everyone outgrows their teenage friends and lovers. Don’t they?
The fifth one I recognise as my mum’s famous Boxing Day curry and immediately I wonder why that’s a memory; I still have that every year. Although, not last year of course, as Conrad and I were skiing and, actually, not the year before either as we went to New York. I hadn’t realised it had been so long.
I open my eyes to be confronted by that toothless smile again, ever so slightly smug this time. “Ok, it’s a good trick,” I concede. “But where was the amazing seafood restaurant in Cannes, or Conrad’s Tom Ford?”
“The nose knows what the heart wants.” The old woman nods solemnly. “So, think on.”
“Utter nonsense.” I wipe a tear from my eye and turn away, pushing on to the organic falafel cart.