“Jane: My emigdola. The organ deep inside the naval cavity, which processes scent, which then connects to memory? I’d like to have it extracted.
Dr. Klein: But why would you want to voluntarily do that?
Jane: Well let me see if I can explain this. Um, I had this boyfriend, ok? And he smelled really good. Like soap…and…fresh laundry…and vanilla…and any time I smell any of those smells, I’m reminded of my boyfriend and how happy we were before he dumped me for no good reason, and I get very sad, and then I get angry, and then before I know it, I am in [yelling now] the throws of an all out emotional break down and so I was just [crying now] thinking, Doctor Klein, if I could just short-circuit my nose somehow, I might actually have a chance of living a semi-normal life someday.”
– taken from the movie “Someone Like You”
It is amazing how a whiff of scent can immediately remind you of certain things, people, and events. Residue of what went before seems to linger around us. It hangs in the air and clings invisibly to everyday things. Though the eyes cannot perceive it, the nose seems to gather these traces of our past successfully and bring them to the present. Or bring us back to the past.
Last week I “time travelled” when I opened, of all things, a fresh pack of feminine liners! I did not know that such an ordinary and innocent thing could bring me back memories of long ago. The scent quickly escaped from the plastic package and it reminded me of a trip I once had. A window and a view of an airplane landing in the distance. The fog and the cold weather. Floral bed sheets. Fluffy white pillows. It reminded me, for some reasons, of the hotel where I stayed when I visited San Francisco eight long years ago. I was still a student then and I attended a conference, which was part of my department’s internship program – the Model United Nations of the Far West (MUNFW).
Of course, I was not merely confined inside a hotel room alone. I was with my schoolmates and friends, my teachers, and students from other colleges and universities from the US, Canada and even Russia. I visited other places, met new people, and experienced all sorts of things. These latent memories were awoken, and suddenly my brain accessed them all; I remembered them, all because of the scent of some stupid feminine liners.
Days after the first time I opened the product, strangely, I found myself bringing the pack near my nose again, breathing in the sweet scent and therefore, reminding me once more of that pleasant part of my life. These past couple of weeks, I have been feeling sad and probably my subconscious has found a way to ease the unhappiness by reminding me of something nice. Yes, I know it is weird. Of all things!
This kind of thing usually happens. Before, I once caught a fruity lotion scent on some woman and it reminded me of my mother, who also used to smell like that a long time ago; it made me cry. The fragrance of certain flowers brings me back to the time when I worked in a flower shop. Sometimes, the smell of earth before or after the rain reminds me of my elementary years. The list is endless.
I am aware that the brain is the one responsible for memories, but it’s like the nose has a memory bank of its own, too, although it is just a conduit for memory access. It is fascinating, don’t you think?
How about you? What has your nose remembered lately?