September 2018

Back to Issue 4


By Colin Varney

When the memory of her becomes diffuse, her features soft as cloud formations and fuming away, he pulls the cardboard box from beneath the bed and removes her cardigan from its plastic covering. He buries his face into the wool and inhales. Molecules of ash and nicotine dislodge and he hoovers them into his nostrils. Ahhhhh. The scent in the weave evokes her strongly and misty memories coalesce into images.

Photographs don’t work. They shock him with their moribund immobility. With his face deep in the weft he can watch her expression change. He can mutter a joke and she might smile, lips twisting around a filter tip. More than that, he can taste her acrid kisses, the sourness that lined her mouth. He sees the dun grouting rimming her gums, the tan patina on her teeth. Detects the smoky taint of her skin. He hears the huskiness of her voice and the sharp reports of coughing.

He keeps the garment in plastic to lock in the aromas but they are slowly dissipating. There is still enough to make her ghost solidify in his mind; to watch fog congeal into her form. The jaunty angle of a Winnie blue protruding from her cheeky grin. Plumes wreathing around her shoulders and soaking into the cardigan. He pulls in another long draught of odour. If he closes his eyes he can pretend she’s in the room.

Nothing else resurrects her so sharply. The shedding she stuffed into a pillow during a course of chemotherapy just smells like mouldy hair. Only the cardigan generates animate memory. He sniffs and sees her spilling red wine on her wedding dress and cackling. He sees her vivid, contorted face during childbirth. He sees her wary curiosity as he jerks a cigarette up out of a flip-top pack and says: “Go on. Just try one.”