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Jury Selection

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It doesn’t work very well, this elevator. I’d rather take a few more minutes. I’m exhausted, it finishes me off climbing all these steps.

It always stinks in there. A mixture of bananas, tinned tuna, cigarette ends, strawberry yogurt, baby’s nappies... Whatever they contain, the smell is always the same with dustbins!

One morning, as I entered that rotten elevator, my nose hit a cloud of smoke that seemed to come straight from Jamaica! When I got to the bottom, I was shouted at by the caretaker who thought it was me who had just set fire to myself!

Sometimes it smells of the delicious little dishes the lady on the tenth floor makes for her mother who lives in the building next door. When I meet her, I always try to guess what is hiding under the aluminium foil. I sniff so hard it makes me salivate!

There it is at last! The doors are hardly open when, to the lingering odour of household waste and stale tobacco, is added an unusual but pleasant scent: a woman’s perfume is floating in the air...

I enjoy a tête-à-tête with that sweet scent as I pass the various floors. With my eyes closed, I try to recall what it reminds me of. It takes refuge in my nose and settles there. What is this reassuring and haunting fragrance? Where does this addictive powdery floral bouquet, with notes of vanilla and woodland, come from?

It makes me think of champagne, with its fresh, sparkling bubbles, of serious voices mingling with some more strident, of a nocturnal atmosphere where sleep, lying in wait, amplifies every sound, where laughter clashes with yawning to the point of tears. When parents, for once, have drunken too much, and summon their children, who are running excitedly around the living-room strewn with torn, multi-colored wrapping paper, to tell them to go to bed, when it is they who are the most tired. Red and white decor, glitter, hubbub, empty bottles, chocolate log melting on a gold cardboard plate.

Frail hands tremble as they hold a little glass bottle containing a luminous, orangey liquid, topped with a stopper like the ones on glass carafes. I read out, “Five! Like my age! What is it?” She presses it and sprays her neck and wrists. “That smells good!”
Cuddling up to her, I get my fix of her lady’s perfume and fall asleep in her arms.

That intoxicating perfume is the one my grandmother wore! I have just got drunk on memories. I am paralytic for the past, tipsy with nostalgia...

Translated by Wendy Cross


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