Your father’s cologne is the smell you relate to absence. At 2AM, you hear your mother scream. It is raining, and the clouds come together to form the most obliterating compartmentalization of sky, an estrangement that exhumes vacancy that classifies you – young and longing. At 2:45AM, to the intimate beatings of loss, you absolve into an internal form of anarchy. It is raining and the flowers become ballerinas in the fleeting moonlight, making love to the water – clasping the droplets as if drowning a million different deaths. At 3:00AM you hear your mother’s wails diminish. It is the last time you will ever hear her cry. You are 11.
You are 17 when you have embodied the word “love” into a 19 year old boy who folds his jeans up at the ankles and misuses the words “fuck” and “shit”, even when “kwasia” is more accurate. When he sinks into you, when your bodies tremor in unison, you will learn the difference between want and need. You may want that boy, but you will realize, subsequent to the emptiness you feel when he is no longer inside of you and at 1:00PM, that you absolutely don’t need him.
Your father’s cologne is the smell you relate to absence. It is five years later, 1AM, when the boy (or man, he claims) you met sweating profusely at a local waakye joint ten months ago says he loves you. He, who stares hungrily at other girls when he thinks you’re not looking. He, who tells you to quiet down when you’re rambling about something you’re passionate about. “Please please please, not again” he says. The stars are awake, penetrating through the blinds as if calling a seance. When he reaches for you, you think you feel heaven. The ethereal entrenchment of the night illuminating his vacant face makes you think, for a second, that you could love him too.
At 8AM you will realize that it is impossible to love him. He says he can’t do it anymore. That you are a ghost emancipating into thin air. That you are closed off, constrained, piled with too much tremor and loss and pain. He says you are hard to love. “I am hard to love.” You will bake the words into your tongue until they become the only language you know. At 10AM, to the intimate beatings of loss, over and over again, you die then live then die a million times over. At 11AM your death will signify rebirth.
Your father’s cologne is the smell you relate to absence. When you begin to dissociate it from loss, from diminishing footsteps, it will be a Friday night – 11PM. You’ll be walking out of a bar, drunk. He’ll see you, he’ll hold you, he’ll ask you if you’re okay. He’ll drive you home. When he touches you, when you sniff the cologne, you will feel the waves of longing. The first time you make love, it won’t be a confession, it will be laying out all your inadequacies knowing that they are not inadequate, but enough – knowing that you are enough. When he says he loves you, you won’t count the hours until it’s over, you won’t even count. You will stare, he’ll stare back, and you’ll tell him you love him too. When you bury your face in his chest, what you whiff is what you will relate to presence for the rest of your life.