"You smell like sorrow", he teased. I flinched and forced a smile, like I always do. There are grains of truth in jokes, no matter how incredulous it may seem. I have attuned myself to dissecting those edges, where the entertainment stops and the smarting bite of reality leaves a gash. He must have seen through me, like he always does.
"Tell me, wise guy, what does sorrow smell like?", I teased back, falling into routine yet again. I expected an attempt at hilarity, probably a pun with the intermingling of perfume, scrambled eggs and sweat on my hair.
"It depends entirely on the person. It’s like with Mom, I can smell the faded photographs, dark coffee and pancakes."
"Pancakes? Who associates sorrow with pancakes?"
One second. Two seconds. Five seconds. Eight seconds. The pause was entirely too long that I knew I pressed the wrong button.
"My dad, he loves..loved pancakes. He would wake me up every Saturday morning and tell me it’s pancake day. Sometimes, when I’m in the mood and I could smell the maple syrup from the kitchen, I’d laugh. More often than not, I would lash out for being woken up".
"That doesn’t make you a bad son."
"It doesn’t make me a good one either."
Silence. I wondered if this was the reason why we started spending more and more time with each other, why we fell into the patterns of a relationship. They said misery loves company. Grief does that too. It brings people—two, lonely people—together. When my grandmother died, no one understood the ache, the cliff, the inebriating sense of loss that clobbers you like waves. Until him. I lace my fingers around his own, and squeezed. You’re not alone, I remind him. I’m here.
I knew what he meant now. I smell it too, on him. His sorrow smelled like stolen liquor from the shop on the corner street, wet pavement and burnt tires, the way I imagined it smelled the night of the accident a year ago; when he survived and his father died.