My grandmother lost her sense of smell the day she was hit by a taxi in the middle of a crowded Athens street. The man drove her home, left her on her couch, and closed the door behind him, taking a part of her with him. We thought that is was a temporary loss, something that would come back with time; but time only brought days and deepened wrinkles, keeping what the man took to itself.
This was always a huge source of sadness for my grandmother. Smell was her favourite sense. After that, she always said that food did not taste the same, rooms did not carry the same memories, hugs did not feel the same. A part of life was lost the moment the car touched her body.
As I am sitting here, my eyes closed, taking in all the smells from the shop, all I can see is her face. The blend of smells is flooding me with memories, one stronger than the next, and for a moment I feel like I am back in her embrace, a feeling I have not experienced since she died 4 years ago.
I open my eyes and I look around me. I am in the middle of a sea of colours, of a sea of smells. It is not the smells that remind me of her, it is my overwhelming use of the sense that does. The absolute joy that can come with a nice smell, the gut-wrench that comes with a bad one, the act of smelling milk before drinking eat, deep inhales over a rose tea, quick sniffs with squinting eyes when walking inside the house and smelling warm food.
It is amazing how the spice shop in Notting Hill wakes up these memories inside me without the sadness that could be attached to them. It is almost a celebration of these events, instead of pure reminiscing. The shop is a mini portal into the world of senses, with hundreds of different spices, products and recipes. If variety is the spice of life, then the spice shop personifies that.
Minutes later, I go out on the rain, with some Greek Giros spice, and two chilli chocolates (original and orange). The rain soaks up my paper bag as I wait for the bus, but I still feel a warmth inside me. The warmth intensifies with the first bite of the chilli chocolate, with the most unusual taste explosion I’ve ever experienced (definitely one of my favourite chocolates so far).
I smile; my grandmother would have liked this I think, and I take a deep breath in, welcoming the smell of rain, damp soil, damp clothes, people, tears, loss, and everything in between.