Her Smell


I put my Grandmother’s coats into my own closet today. They smelled like her. She’s been gone almost two months and they still smell like her. A high, elegant, womanly smell, proper perfume purchased at a proper fragrance counter. Not the hippie oil that I wear, haggled from some guy’s sidewalk table in the East Village. How can she be gone and her smell is still here? I expected to see her sounding the corner any second, likely telling me that I wasn’t hanging her coats correctly. I so wish she would have.

So much of emotion is tied to smells. Our sheets, our clothes, us. But our own smell is not that one that triggers the lust, the anger or the loneliness. It’s the scent that lingers when one that was there is now gone.

In Drowning Above Water, the main character Malina is surrounded by two major olfactory sensations.  Water, which follows her through her life. And smoke, which also trails her. I know that it’s like to have a smell haunt long after they are gone. So does she.

Drowning Above Water – an excerpt – Malina and Grizella

Malina didn’t remember the cigarette being held out to her. But her eyes were stinging from the strong smoke, as Grizella held it to Malina’s mouth, the moist tip soft and wet against her lips. Malina knew this woman and she wanted to forget her. She didn’t think or feel, but inhaled, held the smoke in her lungs, and let it seep out her nose. She just wanted to taste the smoke.

“But maybe, almost time for you to leave here anyway. Not so good to be the oldest apple left in the store, Teckla. You rot. Then, you’re only good for the rats in the alley.”

Teckla. She hadn’t heard that name spoken in a long time. Her old name. From her old life. Her dead life. Like the one she was walking through today.

Grizella took back the cigarette and walked up the hall, toward the elevator, toward the younger, better girls and their younger, better rooms. She stopped, knocked on a door, smiled and hugged the pretty one who opened it, and disappeared inside.

Malina stood alone in the hall. When she nuzzled her head against the collar of her robe, the smell of the smoke hit her eyes again and they watered. She did not cry. Instead, she turned to her own door, turned the knob and went inside.


Drowning Above Water is available and lingering at Amazon.

Drowning Above Water – An excerpt

     “I’ll see you tomorrow,” she said, holding up her hand and waving: open, close, open. A toddler bye-bye. She closed the door, knowing he would stand on the other side for another minute, waiting and hoping for a change of heart. There wasn’t a heart in her chest that could change.

     Her eyes looked away from the door and turned to the window. Her feet followed. The hotel stood on the bank of a river. As she stood, toes on the carpet, feet moist, she imagined the river water. She watched the dirty waves, the rocks and fish and mud, and she felt. She knew her feet, black-bottomed and clutching the particles of shoe dirt picked up from the carpet, were on flat, dry land. But her body rocked as she mimicked the water. It remembered. The way a mother of years ago will sometimes stand and sway when she sees another woman cradling and rocking a baby, even if her own arms are empty. Malina rocked now. She knew that. Less alone than she was then. Or maybe not. There was a knock at the door.

     “Just a moment, Love.” 

     She responded to the knock in her professional voice without needing to remind herself to do it. She squeezed the sight of the water from her eyes and walked away from the door and window, swaying, toward the tiny closet by the door. Inside, hung squarely on a hanger forever attached to the rod, was her navy dress. Her work uniform. A size too small now. Soon it would be two sizes. She freed it from the hanger and stepped inside it. With an arch of her back to start the zipper and a lean forward to finish it, she managed to zip it. The seams argued at the hips and protested at the sides of her breasts. But for tonight, it worked. The knock sounded again at the door.

💜Thanks for checking out my world of Drowning Above Water. You can bring it home from Amazon.