Verbosity21's Blog
Short Stories by Ralph Proenza– mostly Fiction, but some based on true events


[This got published in MEDIPHORS, a Literary Journal of the Health Professions, hence the subject matter!]


It’s all buried now, under mountains of experiences, under oceans of human megabytes burgeoning with stored data.  There in the cerebral cortex, past those convolutions and deep into the catacombs of gray matter, they lie dormant — the memories.  This sepulcher of remembrances contains the remains of what was, encoded there by the coordinated work of the five incredible human senses, but now disjointed and perhaps distorted by the sheer weight of time.  The synaptic Brownian movements of the mind make their boundaries indistinct as they meld with their neighbors.

Yet some fragments remain impeccably intact, untouched by the ravages of time as if embedded in some prehistoric amber of the mind.  These snippets of the past can be held up to the light of consciousness for closer scrutiny.  Some offend, making one recoil like a snail to salt.  Others tantalize with tastes and smells and experiences that talk to the adrenals and elicit a racing of the heart.

As a very young child I lived above my uncle’s pharmacy.  Above all else, I remember the smells, the haunting aromas that inexplicably seeped through the wood floors and the marrow of the hollow walls.  Descending the inside stairway leading into the back of the pharmacy, a myriad of vials and ornate apothecary jars stood quietly at attention in rows that filled the shelves.  Some contained mysterious powders and liquids of every conceivable color and texture…and odors!

I remember those odors now so far into the past:  the vivid fragrances of anise and camphor lurked in the dark corners.  Grain alcohol and chloroform as well clung to the musty air, disturbed now and then by a swirl of oil of cloves, eucalyptus, and the gentler flowers of chamomile.  The acrid tendrils of sulfuric acid and thymol frequently insulted the nostrils of the unsuspecting.  But thankfully, vanilla bean and extract stabbed through the cacophony of  smells with its sweetness to rescue one from the olfactory onslaught.

Now, the mere thought of a fragrance quickly elicits a mental image of a time and place far removed.  The mind’s eye scrutinizes the laser-sharp image at the curved screen at the back of the skull, its own private viewing chamber, and revels in the memories.


A plethora of experiences has come and gone, each implanting its own record for posterity.  And what do these dusty tomes show?  Childhood friends and experiences are there, as is the first real kiss, the first pizza, the honeymoon, the gross anatomy cadaver, the  graduation ceremony.  Each buried at a different depth, each imparting to the mind difference degrees of remembrances.  But I remember the smells the best…

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