Scents seize me. Hold me hostage to a moment- a memory. Sometimes the relationship – time and smell – is uneven, smell weighing so heavy against my senses that I can’t recall the memory itself. Cloaked by the heady emotion, I find myself pulling at the edges of my mind, coaxing that morsel of my personal history to recapture the cool smoothness of its texture or the tender hurt, a finger pressed lightly into a new bruise.

Strange scents call to me, things that are so simple or strange or common. The smell of Obsession for men– my freshman year crush who gave me a hug each day before algebra II last period. The mingled mothball and Chloe scent of my grandparents’ Beaumont home lingering quietly in the drawer of an inherited end table in my sister’s. The moist woody aroma of Muir woods on an overcast day with the hint of ocean somehow simultaneously close and distant. Ripe mangos sneaking their way through the sickly sweet assault of the overripe ones that have fallen to orange mush on the ground.

And then there are colors…the steel gray of a cloudy florida sky bleeding seamlessly into the gulf at panama city beach, the blinking san Francisco skyline against a wet indigo night, the orange of the backpack that has been on every international trip I’ve taken in the last 10 years.

But sound…sound is a more complex companion.

There is the mundane accompaniment to any day…cars racing down MLK in my Oakland existence, guinea fowl bantering with chickens in this one. My name dragged out affectionately by old friends – distorted to “Linda” by new ones. And then there is music.

I can go for months without seeking out music. I may hear something in passing, bob my head or even sing along, but for months I won’t scan radio stations or play favorite mp3s despite having them in abundance. And then something will strike me – a feeling, something ethereal, or insubstantial will resonate somewhere in the heart of me and I’ll reach for a song, an album, a melodious mood and play it over and over. A conversation my heart begins without my ears.

In South Africa it was  Blk Sonshine –buoyant and resonant, New Zealand was Rascal Flats, sentimental and melancholy, my last semester at Tulane it was P!nk’s I’m not dead and Lupe Fiasco, loud and bassy enough to drown out the memory of Katrina rains and an uncertain future. This section of my life is filled with 10 or songs, in addition to all things Brandy, that play on eternal loop in every car, from every radio, and the one club I’ve been too.

Oddly, as much as I’m sure those will remind me of Liberia…it is Youssou N’Dour and Duncan Shiek’s, Wake Up I’m Going Back to Sleep. It speaks to me about Liberia. Maybe the conflict of title or the feeling that it inspires – something uncertain and unnamable, something apprehensively beautiful.

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