This time of the year the air gets too heavy to blow around all willy nilly and Septemberish, and some days I wonder if I’m breathing oxygen, or growing gills like Aquaman. I wake at 5am with the light and the heat, menopausal beadlets starting to form anywhere that skin touches skin- between boobs, at the backs of knees, between fingers. The mornings are hazy with the smoke of faraway fires and salt and the water attached to the air. Always the water.
This part of Queensland is impossible to inhabit if you don’t like moist. The word that sends distasteful shivers to napes of necks of women the world over, is our way of being for the next couple of months or so. And with it, the moist brings a smell. She smell that has become my smell of summer.
Back in the olden days of my childhood, summer used to smell of holidays that stretched out like the Princess Highway mixed with Sunnyboys and chlorine and the hot wet concrete we would lay on, lizardlike to warm ourselves after a swim.
Then in the less olden days of my teen-age, summer smelt of coconut oil basting crispy skin and lemon juice bleaching our hair, with a whiff of tobacco and a scratch of a Redhead from someone’s Mum’s stolen cigarettes. It smelt of furtive kisses and sweaty palms and wetsuits drying and the sharp acetic zest of resin as someone fixed a ding in their board.
In the modern era of my 20s, summer smells were a fetid mix of fresh beer and stale beer and tap beer and the tang of tins, mixed with the fusty cheese from last night’s pizza, still soaking into the cardboard box. All of that rolled into a smell of potential and enthusiasm as holiday jobs shifted into looming careers and those uni smells became things of the past.
In my early 30s summer smelt like home, as I exhaled into the arms of the safest man in the world, and inhaled security blended with promise of a future unexpected. The smells of proper coffee and dry-hot Melbourne tar, of salt from the bay mixed with the fumes of industriousness became the smell of all of my now summers.
Summer now is made up of frangipani and sugar cane, of distant ginger and those stupid little white flowers that wink from glossy hedges and make me sneeze. There’s a sensation of salt and heaviness, until the sky finally cracks and we bring out the stormbeers, cleansing the balconies and making way for the smell of the indolent days of sunshine. The smell is laced with sandy zinc cream and wet dogs and soggy towels and love. Always love.
The best smell of all.