Everybody has their own scent, their own fragrance. An aroma they carry with them all the time, no matter how many showers they take. Their own personal perfume, not sold by any perfumer anywhere in the world.

My mother, for example, carries with her the smell of detergent, deeply intertwined with that of chocolate cake. I love her for it; when I was little, I was always able to find her, regardless of the size of the shopping mall I lost her in.

An inky aroma, deeply embedded in his slightly wrinkled skin, is spread by my father whenever he enters a room. I always expect other people to be repelled by its tangy nature, but no one ever winces. Now, whenever a similar scent fills my nostrils, I am reminded of his calligraphies, covering every inch of his study, and his warm hugs.

To my great annoyance, I cannot remember what my sister smells like. Only when she moved abroad last year, did I realise I had never really gotten close enough to her to actually know her. Not the way I know Anya, anyway.

For my best friend smells like flowers on a sunny April morning. And fresh soil. Like that one time she invited me to her gardening class — I remember her scent following me around all day, even after we had long parted ways. Peter is comparable but different; he always reeks of dirt and sweat, the result of daily football practice. Still, it doesn’t really bother me. Numerous times have I asked myself whether the earthy scent runs in their family, or whether it’s just the twins sporting it, but I have never been lucky enough to meet their relatives.

Some people’s scents do appal me, of course. I avoid the smokers, the garlic-eaters, the sewer workers, and the chemists. Yet most attract me like candlelight does moths. I find my way to the sweet chestnut sellers, the librarians, the gardeners, and the people lathering their skin with sun block.

Kaelan’s is probably the best scent in the whole wide world. His is a mix of all different kinds of things, spread over his body from head to toe, each one claiming their own moment to become the most intense; amber, herbs, freshly baked bread, cedar wood, rain, oranges, coffee beans, pine needles and resin, Crayola crayons, mown grass, crispy shirts drying in a hot summer breeze. And every day, I discover a new one.

I always wonder what I smell like, what my personal fragrance is. I like to think of myself as a good mix of old books, wet paint, and incense. Of summer, winter, spring, and autumn, all in one. Of chocolate-chip cookies, lemon juice, lavender, and a cosy hearth fire. A mix of all the people I so dearly love, whom I want to resemble. But not even my own mother can tell me. Sometimes I press my nose into my pillow, inhaling deeply, but all I ever meet is the faint trace of my Ghost perfume, mixed in with the stale odour so recognisable for pillows. A smell I cannot — or will not — identify my person with.

© 2009. Revised 2014. This is a purely fictitious work.

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