MEET: Aimee//Vietnam, indefinitely
Profession: Writer and copyeditor
Currently listening: Concrete Wall - Zee Avi
Recommended book: The World is a Room - Yehuda Amichai Travel history: Spain, France, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, Israel, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam
My favorite destination visited: Israel
The most valuable lesson I learned from a stranger: To enjoy moments rather than focusing on what is coming next and to strive to give more than you get.
My journal is filled with: Fragments, quotes, and half-finished thoughts.
Words to live by: The only risk is the risk not taken.
My most creative ideas stem from: Reading a good book.
People tell me that unlike others, I have no scent. Everyone has a collection of fragrances that stick to your skin, leaving undeniable traces of you on your pillowcase, your clothes, and in the deep crevices of your house, so that for years after you pass away, people will still breathe you in. This distinct perfume marks you, identifies you, shapes you. But despite my best attempts, I do not own my scent, but wear many that change as often as the days do. I’ve tried desperately to hold on to the smells that whirl around me. The mornings I spent swimming laps in the pool once caused sharp chlorine to stay with me for years. A pungent mix of saltwater and seaweed followed me from the beaches where I spent my days every summer, hanging on for as long as it could until the must of falling leaves brushed it away. But inevitably, the perfumes fade, leaving nothing identifiable for me to cling on to.
People tell me this is what happens when you do not know your home. Although I have collected many houses throughout my life, none of them smells like home. I was born in a house in Hawaii filled with windows and pottery and pineapples growing in the front yard. I spent many years in another house in Ohio where the snow stuck to the windowpanes, and yet another in Florida where my baby sister crawled with the geckos on the hardwood floors. I traversed through a handful of houses in Georgia, but when I look back now, they blur together into one red-bricked monstrosity with vines snaking up the sides. That house, the imaginary house of my childhood, was made up of big empty rooms and dusty sunlight, of floral wallpaper and a vacant trampoline in the backyard. This is the house I remember as my home. But I still can’t recall any scent tied to it. Not the sweet aroma of warm cinnamon buns in the morning or the crisp scent of clean laundry sitting in piles in the living room. No matter how hard I try I can’t remember what the walls smelt like. I remember noises most: the sound of secrets slipping through the floorboards, tense voices rising up through the hall. One day, my home broke down into a million little fragments, and with them, my perfume flew to the wind.
Now, the many scents I accumulate tell the story of the collection of places I visit, a tracking device so those I love can piece together my past days. My ever-changing scent is a shape shifter, a traveler, just like me. At times, they catch a whiff of salted Brazilian meats simmering on the oven from the kitchen in which I used to linger as a child. On other days, lead and paint fumes follow me from the studio where I dirty my fingers with charcoal and acrylic. Some mornings, I smell of my lover’s bed - the sweet aroma of sweaty sheets and stale whiskey mixed with the steam from the black morning coffee I drink to combat the lack of sleep. I am told there are scents I do not even know I carry – the hand-rolled cigarettes that followed me back from the streets of Tel Aviv; the faintest hint of papaya leftover from my father’s house in Hawaii; the wet magnolia trees I stood under as a child.
It is rare, but at times, I smell like nothing. These are the times when those I love worry about my gypsy lifestyle. When I arrive to their doors, they try their best to pass their scent on to me - they attempt to force the steam of homemade food upon me, scrub bubbles of their perfume into my clothes, my body, my bags. But inevitably, before long, they watch as I leave them, and the breeze clings to my hair as I walk out the door with no answers about where I am going next. They wait while days and weeks pass until I will arrive back into their life, bringing with me the scent of pho simmering from a dingy kitchen in Vietnam, alpaca fur from long nights wandering the streets in Cusco, and fresh-baked challah I carried for them all the way from Israel.