Once, there was a little house in our little town.
It was crooked and rusty, had quite a few dents on the roof and was ancient, and most supposedly, boring. The old lady who lived there was quite peculiar. Her smile was enthralling and no one could say why. When she spoke, no one could stop listening. But still, she was old. And in our town, old didn’t matter.
When I was a kid, I used to sneak into her house, just as a prank, with some other pesky children. We took great pleasure scaring the old lady on Sunday afternoons. She never locked her doors, and she had never been prone to robberies. For what could lie in such shambles?
But they were all wrong. There, in that little, rickety house, was a treasure that no one recognized. A treasure no one saw and no one cared for. But that day, when I crept into her house alone, I saw it. I saw a treasure that I could never give for anything else.
That Sunday afternoon, when I slunk into her house, I heard her humming a song. An unusual song that had never before met my ears. Those notes, however softly the old woman was humming them, struck my heart so powerfully that I stopped dead in my tracks.
A scent, a wondrous and luring scent wafted up to my nose. The scent was pulling me with a great force, maddening my senses. But still, I didn’t move. I stayed glued to the drab wall, quivering and breathing heavily. That was when I felt a sneeze coming in. This isn’t the time to sneeze, I told myself. But alas, even though the notes of a song and a hypnotizing scent were tolerable, a mere sneeze was uncontrollable.
I sneezed really softly, hoping the old woman wouldn’t hear it. But then, I heard her enigmatic song come to a stop. She chuckled softly, and that sent my heart beating really, really hard. “Don’t be afraid, child.” she said as she walked over to where I was hiding. I realized that I had been sweating excessively and quickly wiped the perspiration off my head. “Uh… I think I should just… go?” I said, edging towards the door.
“Don’t go, boy. Sit down, let’s have some tea.” she said, holding me back. No words left my mouth. So the old lady, smiling, gestured me to her suffocated living room. The scent became stronger than ever. I went, without hesitating, and the scent pulled me straight toward it. It was a candle, just a candle, alight by a small flame on a small wick.
“What scent is it?” I finally dared to ask. “Memories.” she said.
“This house, this little, crooked house you see was once a candle store, my child. I still hold those fond memories, of all the people who came to see me and speak to me, of all the candles I had made. It was a wonderful time.” said the woman, staring into space. “But… But why isn’t it the same now?” I asked. “The business died. People didn’t need candles anymore. Christmas was scentless and the new year had none of its old spirit. People left the feeling of harmony and love to in the past and began to care for nothing but food and clothes and egoistic possesions.”
“That’s how it is now, isn’t it?” I said slowly. “I’m afraid so, child.” sighed the woman. I sat there for the rest of the day because the scent held me back. It was so strong that it obliged me to stay at the old woman’s house until darkness dawned upon us, when I was forced to carry myself home.
I visited the woman every day. People laughed behind my back, they said I was crazy, but I didn’t care. I never failed to visit her. Noon would turn to dusk and I would still be about her house, chatting and drinking tea. Sometimes, she and I would sit down for a game of Ludo and at other times, she would teach me how to knit and play the violin.
One day, she absurdly ended one of our discussions and reached out to something on a shelf. “Here.” she said. “This is for you.” “What is it?” I said, eyeing it curiously. “Candles.” she replied, grinning. “They’re beautiful, Gran!” I smiled. “Maybe this will remind you of me when I leave.” she said.
“Oh, just shake it off.”
We grew quite fond of each other, and I always held in mind that all that had led to our bonding was the scent of a candle. A candle! Who would have thought a candle would be the bridge between an old woman and a young boy? Who would have thought that a mere candle would lead to such strong and unbreakable friendship? Sometimes, things, however small and disregarded, can do more than is imaginable.
But then, I wondered why the candle ever chose me. I regretted the fact that I had ever gone into her house that day. Because that candle, though it gave me days of joy and ecstasy, also didn’t fail to break my heart.
It was a beautiful Tuesday afternoon. After I left school, I headed straight to that one place I had looked forward to going all morning and so, with a grin plastered across my face, I went inside the little house. “Gran! I’m here!” I yelled, looking around excitedly. After a while of searching, worry and fear began to overtake me. I hurried home, panting and burst through the door.
“Where is she?” I whispered, looking at everyone I could see. Ma sighed. “WHERE IS SHE?” I bellowed, fire in my eyes. “Stop yelling, boy!” Pa yelled. I wanted to point out that he was yelling himself, but I didn’t dare.
“WHAT DO YOU MEAN, SHE LEFT?”
“Which word do you not understand??”
I fell to my feet. “Where did she leave to?” I asked. “She’s going to live with her son.” Ma said. “Her son?” I whispered. Nodding, Ma turned away and said “Now get changed. Your school stuff smells disgusting.” I didn’t move. I felt a trickle run down my face. It was childish, I knew. It was a disgrace for a boy as old as me to be such a weakling as to cry. But the fact that I would never see her again pained me, the fact that I would never again play the violin with her and drink her warm tea by the fireplace of her little house.
I went to where I had kept the box of candles she had given me and pulled one out. Wiping my tears, I lit it and watched the flame slowly crackle and the scent of the candle devour my senses.
Maybe it was true. Maybe those candles did smell of memories.