Taste Memory

Taste and smell are relatively undervalued, among the senses.  There’s a book I’ve re-read a few times, and every single time I pick it up and reach a certain point in the book, I can smell chocolate that isn’t there.  Specifically a solid milk chocolate Easter bunny (or I suppose you could say Ostara bunny, considering it’s me).  This is because the very first time I read that book, it was around Easter time, and my mom always made me an Easter basket with candy and a chocolate bunny.  I was munching on that chocolate bunny while reading, and now I’ll remember it forever because of being able to smell chocolate when none is in the vicinity.  (The book was Fire Bringer, by David Clement-Davies, if anyone was curious.)  Books are really powerful in this way, holding in their pages not just the worlds we are visiting for a time while we read, but connections to the world we were physically inhabiting on previous occasions we’ve read them.  It’s one of the reasons I love re-reading so much.  Picking up a Harry Potter book and thinking about the midnight releases, the all-nighters spent discovering what happened next, reading a character’s death over my cereal in the morning, when I still hadn’t put the book down.  Powerful stuff.

But I digress.  I was talking about taste, and the memories associated with it.

I was rushing, tonight, afraid that I would arrive later than usual for my volunteering shift at the Suicide Prevention Center.  I like to show up a little early to chat with some of the volunteers on the previous shift, and I wanted to get there in time to tell them about my good news (the new job!).  I know how slow the drive through is at the fast food place I frequent on these Mondays, so I went inside to hopefully get my food faster.  No such luck.  I always get stuck behind the people who have insanely complicated orders that confuse everyone.  I don’t even think they understand themselves, really, when they’re ordering.  Food finally in hand, I rushed to the nearest coffee shop, knowing I wouldn’t survive my late shift without some caffeine in my system.

When I got there I was rushing, feeling a little frantic, worried that everything was taking too long and worried that I was being one of those horrible customers who doesn’t look anyone in the eye or treat servers like real people because I’m so much in a hurry.  I so don’t want to be that type of person.  But I got my drink, immediately headed back out to the car, and took my first sip of that Chai tea latte made with soy milk and light on the ice.  Immediately a feeling of peace settled on me.  I felt protected and taken care of and settled.  Which hasn’t been a frequent feeling, with everything going on in my life recently.

Now for the backstory.  When I was 16, my best friend of seven years stopped speaking to me.  It felt pretty abrupt, like she just stopped answering my calls and emails.  No response.  When school started again, she completely avoided me.  No matter how many times I tried to corner her (and yeah, I was distraught, and came on way stronger than I should have), she wouldn’t tell me why she didn’t want to talk to me anymore.  I was devastated.  Broken, for a long time.  Enough time and growth has helped me past it, and I certainly don’t harbor any resentment toward her.  We were young, and we had a really beautiful friendship for seven full years.  She had come into my life at a time when everyone else at school hated me, and everything was better for a long time after that.  I’ll forever be grateful for it.

But, even if I’ve been able to move on, to forgive and let go of resentment, that doesn’t mean I don’t remember the pain I experienced.  To the point that, when my best friend from graduate school pulled the very same thing this summer, I was seriously triggered.  Devastated.  Broken.  I was losing my sanity and my self-respect, beating myself up over anything I could have possibly done to deserve it, hating the Universe and life for putting me through this again.  I have no idea why my most recent best friend stopped talking to me.  We weren’t able to reach her or her husband, or even a mutual friend living with them.  I was crushed.  But with the support of the fiance, with other friends and a wake-up moment where I gathered up the vestiges of my self-respect and endurance and decided to make it through this–I’ve been putting myself back together.  I’m still grieving the friendship I had.  It was a truly beautiful thing, for a while.  She shared all my same values regarding self-improvement, always trying to be the best version of ourselves and never being complacent with where we’re at if we know we can be or do better.  She was amazing.

And the Universe decided to grant me a little reminder today, of the blessing that the friendship was, while I had it.  She was the one who introduced me to a chai tea latte, something I’d never tasted before (my coffee tastes are very limited, and I’ve only started trying different things in the past couple years).  She orders hers with soy milk, and light on the ice because otherwise you don’t get enough actual drink.  And that first taste of it, when I was feeling rushed and agitated today, sent reassurance through my system, reminding me of what things felt like when she and I were at our best.  Surprisingly, it wasn’t something that made me more sad, thinking that she isn’t in my life anymore.  It was comforting, a little nudge saying that I’ve got some beautiful memories and have known some amazing people.

The memories won’t ever be lost, because every time I sip a chai tea latte, I can remember.  And I think that helps me cope with the grief better, so that I can start to move on.

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