A weak smile flits across her trembling lips. Even that looks excruciatingly painful; I wonder if I’ll ever see a real smile out of her again.
Her aged and quivering fingers graze the edge of the paper, with a touch as delicate as the fluttering of a butterfly’s wing. Her nostalgic pair of eyes gaze up at me before they close, her face expressionless. I slowly reach for the photograph with a deep sense of fear. Fear of reminiscence. Fear of facing the truth. Fear of feeling.
I am almost there. A fraction of a millimetre more and I’ll feel the smooth surface of the photograph. A fraction of a millimetre more, and I’ll have to remember.
Finally, it reaches my fingertips, and as I inhale, the dreamlike fragrance of my memories overtakes me.
Flowers of every kind. The kind that starts slow, but grows with the warmth of the springtime; the kind that wilts away as soon as it blooms; the kind that is so luscious and exotic that a hint of its pollen overwhelms the senses.
The smell of pastries from her favourite bakery fills the room. From the scent of warm, buttery croissants and freshly-baked cookies to the citrus undertones left by zesty orange peels and lemon curds.
Other memories visit as I breathe in.
The tickling of old dust from a long-forgotten book on the shelf. The reassuring warmth of full-bodied coffee in the early morning. The refreshing sea breeze during strolls along the winter shoreline.
I almost forget where I am. I look down and see her with her eyes closed, filled with melancholy, but she hasn’t moved.
“Grandma, I’ll bring more photos tomorrow so we can look at them again.”
She nods, barely. Or perhaps it was just the dip of her head as she breathed.
“Grandma, don’t worry. I’ll give you a whiff of the world so you can remember… so you can remember how the world smells.” And with that, I gently slide the stack of photos out of her frail grasp.