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March 15, 2023

On Scents that Linger

Jen Schneider

(previous version published in Beir Bua Journal)

Your scent lingers in the fibers of our (my) closet. Muscles, too. Distraction is a powerful weapon, visitors suggest. War never to my liking. People mean well. Practice, they say. Swap my for our. Singular for plural. One for two. Greek gods for gobstoppers. Myths for memories.

My fingers, wrinkled and chipped of polish, linger on paths, both of mind and matter, that we once travelled. Two for one early bird entrées. There, done. Double dip ice creams. Buy one get one flannels. I did it. Again.

You always promised more, though I neither asked nor desired anything other than the present.

One day, you’d say. How I wish you hadn’t.

I know not how to ride a unicycle. Never had a need to learn. You were the driver, I always the passenger. You my equilibrium. Days now spin and cycle on high heat. I think only of days past. My life a string of memories. Myths in the making.

Cycles on roadways. Arms around waists. Canvas totes and pale pink roses. Walks up mountains and down lakes. Spontaneous drives on the Interstate. Paperbacks of dogeared corners. Tales of Greek mythology. Sharp rights to sandy beaches, state parks, and bird sanctuaries. You, mine. You’d drape your t-shirt over rocks, sand, and concrete. We’d use black and red Sharpies to name our artifacts and trace our path. Block letters on tiny interior tags and inferior stitching. Stitch bugs, you’d call them. They just itch, I’d always say. You always had a tale to weave. We (I) always had a place to sit.

I no longer know where to sit.

Your scent lingers in my lilac cardigan and its tiny faux pearl snaps. Gifted during our third Christmas, just before the baby. She sleeps with your photo under her small pillow. She thinks we (I) don’t know. I read her the same stories you’d tell. Goddesses of Fate. Thefts of Fire. All fabrics and internal fires stifled.

Your touch lingers in the drape of our (my) 3-for-10 t-shirts, in the rolls of our (my) cranberry striped socks, and the Free People crewneck from our (an) afternoon in the city. You (We) found the brand name so funny. A purchase you could not refuse. Free the People, you laughed, as we combed through the thrift shop racks. Zeus would smack right back.

My heart was free, then. I now know freedom has no price.

By day you’d fight for us (them). Defending those who could not afford representation. The dichotomy of free will and a willingness to fight a source of never-ending late-night delight. Alongside claims for fair wages and written op eds to alert citizens of workplace breaches. Pen names everywhere. Paperbacks beware.

They tell me to change our (my) name, now. I no longer know my name.

Free the People, became our (your) mantra. Me, along for the ride. Just before your birthday, I ordered a personalized, tag-free tee, the letters printed in bold 24-point block font across the back.

I ordered a scripted font. Block arrived. I now know life is not scripted.

The gift remains in its in box, tucked in a closet corner. You never wore it, yet your scent lingers. Just today I learned the Great Gatsby is soon to be released to the public domain. To the right of the Greek goddesses and the left of Perseus and Hercules.

Free the People, we’d (you’d) say. Like when we’d sit and read Alice in Wonderland. After and before the Iliad and Odyssey. The irony, to be stuck in Wonderland and not know we’re (you’re) free.

I hope you’re free. The people miss you. Jane, Meg, Jo. Me. The Gods, too. Legends and lifeforms bout in the ring. A paperback copy of Pride and Prejudice still on the nightstand. Underneath The Children’s Homer, handpicked and highlighted, by you—for me.

Some nights, I speak to the yellow highlighted text and play games with the letters. I see you in the words that beat and bleed. Your scent lingers, in the yellow. And time. Along with your myth—and my queries of what legendary, and to be, means to me.

          Define myth. Define scent.

          Define linger. Do all scents linger?

          Do myths linger longer than scents?

          Are myths scented? Are scents myths?

          What does it mean to be free?

          Do legends follow lifeforms? Do legends

          crave me? Is a myth in the public domain

          no longer private? Is mortality present?

          Are myths mortal? Are you free?

          Is life legendary? Is what comes later

          supreme? Do you still think of me?


JEN SCHNEIDER is an educator who lives, writes, and works in small spaces throughout Pennsylvania. Recent works include A Collection of Recollections, Invisible Ink, On Habits & Habitats, On Always Being an Outsider, and Blindfolds, Bruises, and Breakups.

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