Poems & Flash Prose by Mel Finefrock

*Aromatica Poetica is delighted to present Mel Finefrock’s poetry and flash prose in our Blind Writers Project series sponsored by Awesome Foundation Disability*

Runoff

That night, I washed my hair
over and over again
as if to clear my head
of the persistent thought
that I must be unclean.

Five months down the road,
that rose shampoo
has only just begun
to smell again of other memories,
like that weekend at my dad’s
or afternoons on the trail
with a good book playing.

And while most days
I prefer to wash
with aloe and sea minerals,
this careful reintroduction
shows my progress.

 

Olfactory Memory

1

At Target, my partner and I have strayed from grocery shopping to testing fragrances. It’s a favorite pastime of mine. Oftentimes scents are bland or repetitive or even fowl, but every once in a while we find a gem.

I never knew what cologne you wore, just that the scent—like clean linens but without that biting, soapy musk—was practically your trademark. It would be such a lovely fragrance, too, if not for the memories it conjures as a bottle catches me unawares.

By reflex, I nearly pitch it like a glass grenade down the aisle. Thankfully my partner grabs my wrist with gentle urgency and pries the bottle from my fingers. It’s an unspoken reminder of two things—that I’m safe and that if I break this, I’ll have to buy it.

No, I definitely don’t want to buy it.

Grounded as I am, I still run as if the fearsome vial might detonate. I can’t even bring myself to ask him the name of that cologne, which will be both a blessing and a curse later on. I don’t want to know, but I will wonder.

2

I’m on a tough call at work. A customer who was angry at first now chatters pleasantly in my ear. I feel proud that I am the reason. I shift from one foot to the other and breathe in, bracing to explain a process to him, and suddenly smell your cologne as a stranger makes his way to the break room.

My knees almost buckle, and I grip my cubicle for support. Of course it’s not you. When you’re a victim of stalking, you have to learn the trade, so naturally I’ve already looked you up in the system just to be sure.

Still upsetting, though, is how I find myself stumbling over my words again, my confidence extinguished. Hopefully if my customer notices anything at all, he’ll just think I’m distracted.

3

A cab driver sees my white cane and jumps into helpful action. Even while admitting he hasn’t had a blind passenger before, he offers his elbow and places my hand on the door latch as if he’s done it scores of times.

It’s then I notice he’s wearing your cologne. My chest constricts. It’s a struggle to separate him from you—I think it always will be in moments like this—but I’m surprised to find that a new, smiling voice creates a new association, if not yet quite as strong. As we coast down the highway, I realize maybe I’m covering ground, too.

4

The thing is, you were always there. And there’s no denying that at first I wanted you to be. But somehow looking admiringly into your face became looking fearfully over my shoulder, and you were always there when I didn’t want you to be.

Years later, I made the mistake of letting you back in, because whatever you may say of my motives, you did mean something to me. Perhaps to make up for lost time, you wouldn’t take no for an answer. Other men’s hands have hurt other women more deeply, but your hands still weren’t welcome, and neither were your attempts to convince me that you were due some recompense.

What I couldn’t say at the time is that I owe you precisely nothing. I refuse to feel shame for shutting you out again. I will not listen to whispers that it could have been worse, because while that’s true, what you did was bad enough. And although healing may come slowly, my head knows and my heart knows and my nose knows that your scent is but an aura, not a presence. Your words are an echo, not the whole symphony. And your hands will never touch me again.

 

Lavender

New Year’s Eve
finds us at a hotel
upending toiletry bottles
into the tub.

As we wash each other,
last year’s stress
and too many shampoo suds
roll freely down our backs.

The tiles echo
with our laughter
at this makeshift bubble bath.

Overcome,
I turn mid-sentence
and simply
drink you in.

Mel Finefrock was born with Cone/Rod Dystrophy, which causes gradual vision loss due to retinal deterioration. Finefrock also experiences synesthesia and associates senses with one another. Together, her vision loss and synesthesia inspire poetry rich with sensory details. Finefrock is the author of Patchwork Poetry and is a singer/songwriter.