This is the last day. zGripping tight to a pillow, I try to keep my eyes open to watch you on the screen eating lunch at the airport. Because of intermittent fasting, I am often in a psychological war against hunger late at night. In the small hours of the night, I am looking at you and feeling extra hungry. When the moment is just right around the corner, the wait is often especially unbearable.
Separated by half a day of time difference has flipped around our days and nights. When you are in deep slumber, I am at school working hard on my thesis. After I return home from school at night is when you are waking up in the morning and getting ready to go to work. I always try to video chat with you for a few minutes before sleepiness knocks me out, hoping to seize the time and to talk to you while you are in a foreign land, using a language of cultural hodgepodge that we are both familiar with. In the past six months, I have been spending the first 12 hours of the day before I turn the day over to you, as you then take over the remaining 24 hours of the same day. Without you by my side, it feels like each day is 12 hours longer than usual, which makes the time till your return strangely longer.
The voice and text messages in our dialogue box are stuck in a crevice of time difference, with check marks appearing on my side followed by another set of check marks next to your replies. This is like an audio recording that comes with time stamps, with the actual times in each of our time zones documented, and at the same time, our messages and energies are also stored on the cloud, in a dimension where temporal and spatial distance is hard to calculate.
This is our dialog box:
It has been so humid lately. So hot outside. 01:12
The dude next to me has sprayed perfume all over his body. 01:13
Sweat + Perfume =I'm dead 01:13
I can smell it even with a mask on. OMG. 01:14
Hopefully you won’t be sitting next to him later. 01:14
Oh by the way, on your layover, don’t forget to pick up that candle I told you about. 01:20
Oh yes, scent.
This might sound a bit absurd, but I can’t help but to wonder if your scent has changed after these 180 plus days. Since you’ve been away, I’ve stopped burning candles, because I don’t want the smell to mask the scent of you that is still lingering in the room. But the places where I can still pick up your scent don’t have the same warmth as they did before. A while back, I actually looked forward to opening up the closet because I could smell the perfume still lingering on the collar of your coat. You once told me that perfume should be sprayed behind the ears, because that area is closer to the vein on the neck and is not as exposed to air, so the fragrance would evaporate slower. By doing so, your perfume has accumulated and left residues on the collars of your clothes. The traces left behind on your pillow and your clothes seem to dwell in a state between stillness and dissipation, quietly waiting for a sense of warmth to return, for their spark to be reignited as if a match has been struck.
Pheromone exists in nearly all animals; however, Homo sapiens see this chemical substance as a secret weapon for finding a mate and hope through invention, production, and business transaction to capitalize on the bundling of scent and love. Behind such commercial transaction, we are still partially a low-ranking animal.
Scientists have discovered that homosexuals are highly sensitive to pheromones secreted by people of the same sex as them. This proves that there exist different settings between Homo sapiens. Inexplicable impulses, preferences, and disdains are evidences of our primal instincts. Therefore, how could we simply just rely on a single “scent” and ignore the congenital nature of our olfactory nerve?
Hundreds of days ago, after reading what I’d written on my bio -- “I believe in the theory of body odor” -- you sent me a message on the dating site to apply to be a subject of my body odor experiment. After the usual small talk, you then cut straight to the point and asked me about the definition of body odor. I was taken aback. You were the only one that had ever asked me such a question in return.
“Girls are all scared of being smelly. We always want to be soft and sweet smelling. Who can tell us that with the things that seep out of us, what is considered normal? It seems like girls are supposed to be naturally like flowers. We smear and spray a bunch of stuff on us, and we have to look pretty and smell nice before we are worthy to be liked. But what comes first? Good impression or your smell?”
“I don’t think that by making yourself smell good would make others like you.”
These words had piqued my curiosity.
You were in control of that date, and you then took over a part of my heart. You had later mentioned that people have begun to ponder over artificial and natural scents, seeking to find ways to enhance personal appeal. As you went on to talk more about this, the distance between us grew closer. You didn’t put on any perfume that day, and I knew it was intentional. You were clear about your objective, which was for me to get to know you and to begin by getting to know your scent. Incredibly, the smell that I’d picked up was a sweetness that was soft and calm. It was an aromatic scent with no top, middle, and base notes, and I felt my nerves being tugged by it.
On that date, the dishes served before us had satiated our hunger, partially.
The Geisha coffee I was sipping on for hours had gone from scorching hot to cold. I was dragging time, intentionally yet unexplained. When the shop closed, the night was already late. I hadn’t plan on returning home so late, but although I wasn’t dressed warm enough, I was feeling strangely hot and anxious. We blurted out at the same time, “Where are you heading to?” I recall that I had said the last train for me to take home had left. (That was a lie but you didn’t blow my cover.) I was trying to bet on my luck to see if you would be willing to go to a strange place with me, a place where only we would know who we were. Usually, a few drinks would have been downed at this point, and we would tipsily roll onto a bed, but things didn’t go per usual that night. I even ended up drinking an espresso from the capsule machine in the room, and I think I kept repeating that I would sleep till the early morning before taking the train home, so I won’t be staying for long.
I remember you had suddenly become quiet, as if you were secretly plotting something that should take place naturally but may not happen so smoothly. After I announced my temporary personal declaration, the air in the room grew silent. The heat between us had suddenly dropped. A sudden silence could really catch people off guard. You then moved in front of me and put down the coffee cup that was in my hand. You picked up my hand, ever so gently yet firmly ushered me onto the bed. (Come to think of it, seeing from your action, you probably get around a lot.) People say that pheromone is a substance that triggers intimate interactions in animals. I didn’t really care whether that was a theory or a fact, because all I knew was I was fondling desires that were endless and licking euphoric pleasures that came in waves, with trembling and elated screams shouted out.
Upon waking, fluids had already oozed out of the both of us in abundance. The level of moisture in the air had elevated and transformed into a carrier holding some sort of consensus. What usually would be salty and acidic had suddenly turned into cream and honey. Overcome with waves of prolactin, I buried my head between your neck and a pillow, enjoying a scent that I wasn’t sure if I would ever smell again.
I’m about to board, kisses. 01:50
The pleasant taste in my mouth is sweet. Non-toxic and innocuous. We associate sweetness with happiness. Our survival instincts drive us to search for sources of sweetness, which then turns into an addiction. Since that night and the next day with you, we had our next date, followed by you moving in with me. Step by step, I continue to ponder over this calorie-free sweetness. Combined with obstacles in the real life that are unavoidable when two people share their lives together, how much painstaking work would it take before I could succeed in acquiring skills that are uniquely my own?
Ok, don’t take off your mask on the plane! 01:52
The dichotomy of being gentle and long lasting or fast and exciting is probably a relationship conundrum that many people have contemplated over. After meeting you, our various emotional and sexual experiments have been sporadically documented in a column, including the scent from our first encounter to the personal traits observed in our dates thereinafter. Even with the reality of living together, we have remained indivisible, soft and calm (sometimes wild and sometimes poised). The friction and abrasion in a relationship are testaments to human nature’s frankness. We rarely put our affection on public display and instead focus more on discussing how to handle novel attraction and jealousy; bureaucracy and rationality with work; the pursuit of success and progress; submission, human nature, and stubbornness; trust, mutual-trust, and confidence, and it’s even exhausting and taxing to think about all the fights and the making up afterwards. Is anybody capable of cracking the default setting that comes with memory?
Two entities have come together to keep each other company. There have been endless social commotions, over 700 kilometers of physical distance, and differences in nationality and identity, and there are also political boundaries, which are far more unpredictable. Could this also be classified as a definition for what “far” stands for?
I shift my focus back to the desk and the blanket next to me. I yawn to confirm that it’s already midnight. I try to soothe myself by draping a blanket over me, trying to feel warmer so I could pretend to be in an embrace and feel a different body temperature next to me. Your job has taken half a year away from us. Taking into consideration the flight time, you will be in my time zone when I wake up. With an addition 14 times 24 hours, we will be hugging in real life again. Please fill me up with six months’ worth of liquid, and with that indescribable scent, I want to sniff you like a cat. I don’t care if its pheromone or whatever. All I know is I love that scent, and I can’t wait to snort it like its crack.
I will wait till you get back to change the pillowcases and blanket. 04:45