Memories Worth Burning Through

Alexa, play "Lights Up" by Harry Styles

When I moved into my new apartment in September, I quickly decided that it smelled too clean. The building itself is very new and I’m pretty sure I’m the first person to live in this particular space. It smelled like I was just existing in white space without context. That’s a blank Word doc, not a home.

This was an unexpected observation for me because I don’t have a very good sense of smell, but that appears to be changing as I age. (I’m 34 now! Imagine that: a black gay man who has made it to his mid-30s in America! A marvel indeed.) Coffee is starting to taste like more than sugar, milk and heat. Sometimes, I can smell men when they walk by me… which is a decidedly mixed blessing. (What are y’all out here doing?) Sometimes I can smell myself. (What am I out here doing?)

Anyway, I decided that my apartment needed a smell of its own. After trying a few candles, I settled on this “Pepper + Oak” candle from PaddyWax. It smells warm, welcoming, a little sexy and lived-in. I guess “spicy” is what I’m trying to say, though “autumnal” feels somewhat relevant too. If curling up on the couch with a good book, a hot guy and a hot toddy was a candle, this is what it would smell like. I realized this was the candle for me when, within a few days, I bought a back-up candle because I didn’t want run out. I like to light the candle when I’m writing and reading. Or when I have friends or one-night-stands over. Or when I’m staring off into the distance, thinking about our on-going constitutional crisis. Basically, I have candles lit all the time. I bought another one to take with me while traveling. During my 19-stop book tour, I’d light the candle in my hotel rooms while I unpacked or got back to the room after events. It helped create a sense of consistency amidst the constant change of travel. Warm, welcoming, a little sexy and lived-in.

So yeah, this candle is definitely a source of joy, as is my newfound sense of smell (and all the surprises that entails — as it turns out, pinot noir and malbec are not interchangeable.) A candle is just a thing, but a smell can quickly become a memory and memories are how home happens.