Memories are amazing things. They have this ability to come and go as they please, often arising completely without notice because you smelled, heard or felt something you once experienced while waiting for someone to hand you change after purchasing some food on a random street corner in another country you visited 10 years ago.
I absolutely love these moments. I imagine our brains like that scene in the matrix where something triggers shelves to suddenly come rushing into a big open white room of nothingness, filling it with guns. Except instead of guns, it’s a bunch of old film reels that you can play on demand, but not necessarily always by choice.
For me, there are certain things that will instantly take me right back to a particular event every single time, without out fail. One of those is the smell of a certain laundry soap. I don’t actually know what laundry soap it is but if anyone within sniffing distance has laundered their clothes with it, no matter how faint the smell may be, I will know it. And then boom! I’m walking into the lavandaria in Mexico City to pick up my clothes in the fall of 2007.
When you get your clothes, they are so fresh clean, crisp, and folded to perfection then placed into plastic almost as if they’ve been vacuum-sealed. I’d walk home with my friend, both of us skipping through the streets with our treasures as the sun shone above, vendors shouted musically through from the corner, colors were a little bit brighter and flowers followed behind our footsteps. Or at least that’s the way my mind has decided to remember it. I think it accurately matches how I felt at the time.
That’s the beauty of memories though. They may not capture the full reality but they capture how we felt and transform them into images that are perhaps enlarged or distorted. But I like it that way and that’s how I choose to catalog my memories.
Then when you rip open the bag and pull the clothes out, everything smells so good. Even though, I’m pretty sure, the clothes have been dried so ferociously as to take a few years off their life—it’s worth it.
And then, just like a real-life Gain commercial, I would sniff my freshly cleaned shirt collars every day until the smell faded. But then I would return to the lavandaria with my weekly drop off, ready to start the cycle of flowers and rainbows all over again.