That smell.

Very familiar. Nostalgic even.

It took him back in time. To another place and another time. When everything was beautiful, untainted and welcoming.

He remembered the feeling of the sun on his skin, the gentle breeze blowing through the palm fronds. The sound of the waves lapping against the sand on the beach.

He remembered that day, how he walked by the pool, full of beautiful people in swimsuits some with cocktails in their hands. The music playing on the DJ’s ridiculously large music system. The feeling of the cold glass in his hand on the verge of numbing his fingers and the thought that was going through his mind, “I need to find a place to sit”.

The sense of freedom knowing he had no bills due anytime soon and a comfortable bank balance was showing on his account. That feeling of power that said to him, “Go ahead. Buy it”, as he stood at the shop window looking in at the mannequin wearing the beautiful kaftan. The first he had ever owned.

Another place. Another time.

Not this place. This crowded marketplace hundreds of kilometers from the nearest beach. Here where women were trying on bras over their clothes in full view of everyone. The only place where a male hawker could make explicit public assessments of a woman’s bosom or her nether regions without causing offense or a sense of violation. Where used high street brand shoes sat right next to obscure brands from parts of Asia many people here couldn’t find on a map on the street, selling for a fraction of their original price.

This place where the fragrance of street food became one with the diesel smoke emitted by the poorly maintained public transit vehicles, creating this confusing new fragrance of edible noxiousness.

He couldn’t help the flood of memories that engulfed him or the temptation to mull over the stark contrast between that place and this place. That time and this time.

This time when the beauty in the world was gone. Scenes from his life were no longer in Technicolor but in grainy black and white. This time when every shop window mocked him as he passed by. Even those selling coffins seemed to say “you can only wish for one these, too bad you can’t afford them dead or alive”. This time when he would come fully awake at 3am in the morning worrying about the landlord and whether this would be his children’s last night in this house; tomorrow the streets beckon. Cold glasses aren’t those that carry drink but those she wears on her face.

That smell. Of blossoms.

Author: Muchiri

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