Life Life

01/01/2020 - 07:19

Scent of town

I grasped his hand: “Don’t hurry. I want to recall the scent of town tonight.”

It was a dry night in December after a week of soft rain. The town was clean and fragrant like a girl who had just taken a bath in water with lemongrass and holy basil made by her mother on the last day of the year. The scent was kept in memory for following years. Winter nights were silver in color. Again, December came.

For many years now, the weather in Hue has been getting hotter and hotter. The tender yellow sun, like the color of autumn, suddenly returned in a hurry. How I love the scent of town these days. It is like the yeast which has been brewed for weeks in the winter, waiting for the sun to give its aroma. The soft sun and breezes caress thick canopies of trees on Le Loi and Nguyen Truong To Streets.

The heavy smell of camphor trees gives dreamers a warm feeling as if they were digging into their lover's jackets. The light hollow atmosphere tempts people to stop on the bridge, listening to low and soft sounds of water running down there in the river. 

December. One can feel the scent of burnt agarwood from ancient pagodas and houses surrounded by plant hedges in the Citadel through opening doors. Winds bring the pure scent to the river. Suddenly I remember you said you could never forget the unique scent of Hue. Seasons come and go; did your words float with the wind?

The town in winter has many scents and flavors. The vender who sells mussel rice is crossing Truong Tien Bridge in the fog bringing the good smell of smoke, vegetables, chilli, star-fruit, mango and peanut. Passing the market, I recall messages asking me to go eating mussel rice because you had just got your royalties. How warm memories!

Every time I went downtown at night, I dropped by on the street vender selling grilled corn and yam. Missing the fields or grandma was just the excuse for a girl living far from home like me to buy a grilled yam fragrant of smoke. The train horn sounded so depressing in winter winds. 

The town is bustling on the last days of the year. The fragrance of ginger jam pervades Kim Long, An Hoa, Tay Loc. Enduring the extremes of weather, ginger grown in Hue is hot and aromatic.

Sticky rice, lotus seeds, bananas, thanh tra grapefruits, persimmons, etc., all have different flavors when grown in Hue. Picky people always choose these on Tet.

Was it why we met?

Joys are fragrant of the sun; sad stories sound depressing on rainy days. Memories are painted silver. We no longer feel too painful, nor too elated. It is as if the time had never passed by. I still remember the moment when eyes met eyes. We are too hasty to recognize the old scent which we used to enjoy.

December is coming. I suddenly recognize even the time smells of agarwood...