Everlasting Perfume

Writer: Grace Noh

“Grace, could you give these dresses to the dry cleaners? Thank you. I’ll prepare for lunch now.”

As the youngest kid in the family, I am used to going for errands. It does not matter whether I’m a 13-year-old girl or a 26-year-old grown up woman briefly back home in Korea for a business trip.

Walking through the small streets connecting one apartment to another on the way to the drycleaners, I found myself passing by an old playground that used to my to-go place after school as a little kid. Looking at my favorite spot as an adult, I could not believe how small and deserted it looked.

I stopped in front of the playground, starring at the seesaw, the swings, the slide where I had actually fallen down on a kid and broke his tooth, and the high bar where I would bet with a friend to see who could hang on it longer. The loser had to get all the laughs and childish jokes. Then the mothers would shout out, “Come home NOW for dinner!” from the windows. The kids dissipated like puppies running to the arms of their masters. The playground became quiet by the evening.

I stood there for a while. I don’t know for how long, but I could almost see myself and hear my voice as a kid running around in front of me. My eyes became watery. Why?

Image from Shel Silverstein's  The Giving Tree  (1964).

Image from Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree (1964).

Memories are part of the past events that are based on facts, but memories don’t necessarily equal to facts. We say memories are special, because we include our own emotions, affections, love, and imaginations in them. Perhaps this is why we tend to romanticize the past memories whether or not we correctly remember what really happened. It is almost like our own visual film and everlasting perfume.

I began to ponder why I would spend much of my time trying to feel those emotions again from my past memories. Most of the time, my heart ached, yet I continued to hold onto something from my past. Why? Perhaps I am asking for an answer I cannot possibly answer or dare to answer. What I can say is, whatever I have felt, whomever I have met, and whatever I have seen, they drove me forward to create something, write something, and achieve something. Every great artist was influenced by something and someone. How could something so great can possibly be created out of nothing!

Image from   Shel Silverstein's   The Giving Tree   (1964).

Image from Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree (1964).

If I had asked you, “What is your deepest secret?” you wouldn’t answer me right away, but your eyes will reveal something, unconsciously going back to your past memories. It may be your only secret, the deepest secret that will never be fully exposed. It may forever exist only in your memory, but the influence from those special moments will be displayed and expressed in some forms. Perhaps the fact that past memories never reoccur in the same way we have experienced makes our eyes watery. Yet, we still smile, because we went through those special moments.

From  Fallen Angels  (1995). 

From Fallen Angels (1995). 

From Wong Kar Wai’s Fallen Angels (1995), the film ends with a man and a woman who have passed each other many times but never tried to get to know each other. They became non-strangers and strangers simultaneously. The man found the woman very alluring one night, perhaps it was the weather, perhaps it was the place. The woman felt the same way, “I’m about to leave, I ask him to take me home. I haven’t been… this close to a man in ages. The road home isn’t very long and I know I’ll be getting off soon. But at this moment, I’m feeling such lovely warmth.”

From  Fallen Angels  (1995). 

From Fallen Angels (1995). 

The most unforgettable memory does not necessarily have to be something grandiose. It could be for a brief moment in life that passed by so fast that you cannot even recall what really happened; what remains is that you clearly know how it made you feel.