Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Last Ingredient

He woke up again in the dark. Sleep visited only in tiny spurts now that dreams constantly interrupted it. Dreams that started elsewhere, yet somehow they twisted around in his mind till they found her buried in his consciousness. Every time her smiling face filled his mind, he woke up - just as he did now. He wondered how long he would last this way. His mind did not seem to fade things out. His memories were razor sharp - not like faded sepia photos that brought on nostalgia.

He sat staring into the darkness for awhile before turning on the lamp. He opened the drawer on the bedside table and took out a small bottle. The bottle was three quarters empty - a honey coloured liquid danced around at the bottom as he idly swirled it. He had lasted almost a week without it, but now he needed to sleep. He opened the bottle and tipped a drop of the precious liquid on her pillow. Lights off and he let her perfume lull him to sleep.

When he woke again, the room was full of sunlight. He could still smell the mild fragrance of the perfume drop. It would linger for awhile. It was the only thing that helped – that made her presence real, fought away the nightmares and brought blissful sleep. He picked up the bottle and read the name – ‘Bliss’. He remembered where she had bought it – it was almost two years ago – in a quaint old market place in a city that had stood still in time. He had to go back there and find the shop again. Something wasn’t right about the scent today – something was missing. He needed a new bottle. He wondered if he could find the place again – they had found it when they lost the way on one of their rambles.

He made the long journey to that place forgotten by time. It took him some time, but he found the shop. The perfume maker was an old man. His face was serene though wrinkled; his thin body was topped by a thatch of grey hair. Years of bending over his fragile instruments and ingredients had left him with a slight stoop. Tiny bottles lined the numerous shelves around the shop. Boxes and jars of every kind held ingredients. Glass cases enclosed the bottles of perfume that were for sale.

He laid the precious little bottle on the counter. ‘I want to buy a few bottles of this perfume’, he said. His voice sounded hoarse and unused. He felt like he hadn’t spoken in a long time and maybe he hadn’t. ‘I remember you’, said the old man staring at him keenly. ‘You came with a young lady then. You were both so happy to have discovered my shop by accident.’

He winced at the last word and simply said ‘I’ve lost her’. ‘I know,’ said the perfume maker gesturing him to sit down. ‘No woman would want to buy the same perfume again. She would want something new and so would you if she were still here. You lost her to death and you are not willing to let go.’

‘This is the only thing that helps me. If I close my eyes, her presence seems real. Please sell me a few more bottles of it’ he pleaded. The old man sank down in his seat and looked sadly at the troubled young man. ‘I don’t make it anymore’, he said finally, ‘I make one batch of every perfume I create and I never make it again. You can look around if you like.’

He looked devastated – clearly the thought had never occurred to him. ‘Why?’, he asked softly. ‘Can’t you make it again? You surely kept the recipe?’ The old man shook his head ‘Perfume is not sold for the sake of the one wearing it. It's sold for the others who will learn to recognize their loved one's approach by a whiff of that scent. Every story does not have a forever. When there is a forever, it will adapt the new flavor of the season. When there is none, I spare some pain to the hearts that ache. Believe me, I am trying to help you.’

‘Besides, there is something more, isn’t it? Why did you come here so soon? There is still enough left in that bottle for another 6 months’ the perfume maker questioned gently. He looked up into the old face and tears stung his eyes as he murmured ‘It seems different these days. Maybe the perfume is too old. Not by much, but something is still different. I thought maybe a new bottle would help.’

The young man looked up at him after a lengthy period of silence. ‘There is something missing in that scent you inhale these days’ the perfume maker said finally, ‘Every individual affects the liquid differently, creating something new that I can’t ever hope to replicate. She is missing. The last ingredient for a perfume is the person wearing it.’

The young man closed his eyes for a moment and let the meaning sink into his mind. He opened his eyes again and slowly stood up to go. ‘Thank you. You know exactly how much you have helped me.’ On the glass counter, the bottle of 'Bliss' cast a long shadow in the evening sun's rays.


Vinay said...

May or may not have been intentional, but this reminded me of 'P.S. I love You'.

Nicely written

sun said...

Wow that was so amazing...