you pour the Ralph Lauren Polo Cologne gift set I gave you for your birthday down the bathroom sink in your basement apartment, while I inhale the combined scents of leather mixed with wood, and sage laced with spicy basil from the Eau de Toilettes’ medley dribbling down the drain and into the rusty pipes, after you tell me that none capture the signature scent you’ve imagined for yourself, and then ask me why I never wear the Vanilla Musk perfume you bought for me last Christmas at the mall kiosk, because I’m trying not to hurt your feelings by telling you that your gift smells like the dead skunk that was trapped underneath my porch the summer I was ten years old, stuck there until my grandmother crawled underneath the structure, removed pieces of splintered wood blocking her path, and muddied her knees as she searched for the source of stench, then spotted a swarm of flies feeding off a lifeless body lying on its side that she would later say reminded her of the yin and yang symbol, dragged it to our front lawn, where I stole a peek from inside the bay windows, and wondered how she had the guts to touch a dead animal and then dump it in the garbage bin so our family wouldn’t have to smell the rot and want to vomit, because this same odour reminds you of your mother since she always wears it, and I don’t want to ruin this special association for you, especially since your eldest sister is clearly her favorite child, and nothing you do, nor what your other sister does, ever satisfies her, and it probably makes you feel better to pretend there’s a deeper bond between mother and son than there actually is, and besides, my family taught me that it was impolite to complain about gifts, and that I should always say thank you.
Marilyn holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Tampa’s low-residency program and is currently a Staff Writer at Longleaf Review, a Creative Nonfiction Contributing Editor at Barren Magazine,and an Assistant Creative Nonfiction Editor at Pithead Chapel. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in (mac)ro(mic), Ellipsis Zine, Assay: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies, and elsewhere. Originally from Toronto, she now divides her time between Canada and Portugal. You can find her at www.marilynduartewriter.com and on Twitter @MareDuarte28.
image: Elaine Wang @theelainewrites