When I first met Paula, I told her that she smelled like bergamot. Every time she moved her arms, every time her hair was caught in a light breeze, my senses would go into overdrive and all I could think of was a kettle of Earl Grey tea. She said she smelled that way because she spent most of her childhood in her uncle’s tea shop, wandering among the tall glass jars filled to the brim with exotic smells and delicacies from around the world. A pinch of oolong here, a dabble of British Breakfast there, some lavender thrown in for good measure, and voila!, she would say, raising her hands over her head as if she was a magician. She lived for the scents that awakened the senses, for it was in those scents that brought us to a moment of undiluted happiness. One day I wanted to test that thought, so the two of us walked from my home to her uncle’s tea shop, the small ocean blue painted store at the end of the street with wind chimes at the door. When she opened the door, I closed my eyes without even thinking. It was here, all of it, ready and waiting for me and only me. Her uncle, a grizzled old man who somehow forgot that the 60s had ended a long time ago, came from around the desk and hugged his niece with happiness and pride. I stood back, giving them their space but also taking in the scents as best as I could. Her uncle then pulled away from her and introduced himself to me with a smile and a firm handshake.
“I give people happiness,” he said with a wink. “Too often, people come in here dull and grey. I let them see what they are missing.” With that, he walked back behind the counter to a small stove with a kettle that had just begun to whistle. From this kettle he filled three already prepared cups that stood to the side then waved at us to join him. When we reached him, he handed each of us a cup; Paula’s was the colour of blood while mine was a deep violet. He raised his bright white cup in a mute toast but smiled as we took a sip from our own cups. Once the hot liquid touched my tongue, my skin began to smell of jasmine.