• Vol. 08
  • Chapter 12
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The aftershave— over zealously applied,
radiated from the barista’s neck towards me.

I took the coffee. The scent of ground beans’
earthy treacle mingled with his light citrus—

combination of cocoa and synthetic lemongrass.
In an instant, something dislodged my mind’s depths.

Synaesthesia; a smell flowering into an image, I was
experiencing the aromas as colours, pink and jade,

shifting mists rising and falling like the hot wax of
lava lamps. I headed for the door; these were the

hues of my childhood bedroom. Before I reached the
relief of the autumn air in the street beyond; the

bliss of black exhausts, of vendors frying fatty bacon
for their greasy-lipped customers, of warm sugar and

ring donuts, of asphalt drilled to a mushroom cloud of
dust, of anything but the overpowering fragrance that

sizzled at the back of my throat; I staggered to a vacant
seat, my senses misfiring and the stench intensifying.

Its sweet high note was turning to rotten fruit, to singeing
bleach, the coffee in my hand was pumping out an acrid

steam; thick and chocking as cigar smoke blown
in fat rings around a child’s face. Those rings



were moving now, along a bent wire in my brain,
that lead to a door that had been closed so long ago,

by hands so much smaller, that I had forgotten it
was there at all. A rusted key dangled ready for me

to manoeuvre along this electrified maze— a wire
buzz game, careful not to let the loop touch the

metal— later I would learn the name, a man in a coat
would say traumatic amnesia— don’t touch, a touch

here would release a scream, would fire a shock that
resets the whole scene. My mind, moved the key on

its burnt ring towards the door, the thick fumes of memory
already seeping through its cracks. These adult hands,

holding steady as ships, as I unlocked the place where
touches jolted me to silence— with no chance to start again.