not jasmine, not rose … Dusk

…you were telling me the other day about how much you missed the smell of your hometown in autumn, how the merest whisper of jasmine would conjure up the last blooms of that fragrant vine across the patio in your old house.. and whether there was something similar with me. It took a few days before the answer came via the second of two amazing, amazing sunsets over the Botanics..  But it’s not really the glorious sunset that I love; it’s more that poignant point of time immediately after. I’m not sure what one should call it.. L’Heure Bleue sounds overly French impressionist, sunset sounds like closure..


There is something ineffable about dusk.

In Singapore it stands above the head just slanted over the eyes, the sun in the face, through the trees, sometimes fierce, sometimes clouded, but always a suspended moment.

Ripe with dust and sweat, it has a slow tremble to it. Like a falling leaf. Like a song about to end.

Like the fragrance of an affair but dimly remembered from many years ago.

It hangs above the eyes.

It suppurates into the nose, not jasmine, not rose, not tuberose, but the smell of drying tea leaves, the smell of coffee, the smell of dust, the smell of cooking, of rubber, the smell of loss.

The loss of something.

But what?

As a child I used to dread the setting of the sun.

It was good that I spent so many of those sullen skulking evening hours face down in the tepid waters of the swimming pool, up and down, lap after lap, stroke after stroke, breath after breath… It was only later in my teenage years that I took up backstroke and re-discovered the beauty of being face-up, skin to air, watching blue sky turn to opalescent fire, then sink into orange then bronze, then seeing it quickly snatched up by the magician’s hand like an immense square of dark linen pulled away only to reveal a darker, larger square.

But I digress.

Swimming took away the need to fear the evenings and also took away my memories of that smell.

Who can smell much of anything in chlorinated water?

I reached 23 before I felt it again.

The dark magic of dusk.

Not jasmine, not rose, not tuberose.

Something else.

A lurking shadow of a fragrance, crushed underfoot by our modern life.

A special hour.

If I had to write music for it, it would be a passacaglia for a quartet of 2 guitars and 2 cellos – adagio, in 6:4, with a percussionist marking every 1 with a padded beater on a block of old drift wood. And it would never end. A repeat sign leading back to first house then back again and again.

You guessed it.

I am in thrall to dusk.

Everything I ever wanted to feel is encapsulated in those magical 45 minutes.

Everything I ever wanted to be is caught between those two terrible blinks of the eye between day and night.

Everything I ever imagined I would create and have created is a reference to that hour.


Not jasmine, not rose, not twilight.

Not evening






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