She struck me as an ambassador of the strength that fairytale heroines are made of. We shook hands and sat across each other. Two years, she had been in Canada. At OCISO, just a few weeks, volunteering to help bring Syrian refugees.

She asked all the questions. “What is the goal of your project here?” “Why do you do it?” “Why did you become a storyteller?” I told her. She nodded. “We need to find meaning in our lives,” she said. “I like to explore art – no – to find in art things about ourselves, to explore. So important. Especially now, with what’s going on here, and in the world.”

She told me other things she liked. To walk. Nature. Beauty. She walks a lot, she says. So much to see. So much beauty. “I used to be very active.” She shakes her head. “Now, I want to contribute. I want life to be a commitment. You understand, yes?” I nod. “So much to learn!” She’s been learning French. Now she wants to learn Spanish. And Persian. And how language changed my relationship to this land. I tell her. She nods. She knows of what I speak.

We travel the same road. We cannot go home, even if we go home. The past is a different country: that place we parted from where we can no longer arrive at. “Why did you come?” she asks. I tell her a love story. I ask what brought her to Canada. “I wanted a better life. As a human being, as a woman.” I nod. Fairytale courage.

I walk her out, and as I hurry back to the storyteller-in-residence room, my nose quivers in the air. I stop. I track a scent down to the reception desk. “Something smells good here,” I say. “Something I know!” I lock eyes with the black, wide-hipped woman who makes pumpkins roll in Caribbean folktales. She sits behind OCISO’s reception desk, on Thursdays. I sniff the air around her. “It is you!”

People call her Viki. She holds out her hand. I press it to my nose and breathe in deeply. “It’s crema Hinds!” I shout. “¡Crema Hinds! ¡Crema Hinds!” En la mesita de luz, en el botiquín del baño, en el bolso playero, en los avisos de televisión, rosa la crema, rosa la tapita de plástico, rosa claro y rosa oscuro los tres pétalos de la etiqueta, rosa la nariz pelada por el sol por eso fría y todo, arde, arde hasta que absorbe, y entonces todo es rosa y crema Hinds: mi mamá, mi madrina, Mar del Plata, the sand, the sea, the sun-burned skin from all those summers at the beach, from all those women who raised me, forever young in their scent, forever sauntering out of pink bathrooms, skins glowing, heads Hollywoodly wrapped in towels, filled with life to the brim, and me pulsing with that eight-year-old radiant longing, wishing if only, if only and forever all we could breathe was this happy crema Hinds.

But Viki shows me the bottle. It isn’t Hinds cream. It is some white plastic tube with no label and a pumping nozzle sticking out of it. She rolls her swivel chair towards me: “I know exactly what you mean! For me, it is Fidji. That perfume! My childhood. So much of my life! I search for it, but can’t find it. The way it was, they don’t make it anymore!” And I know exactly what she means. We cannot go home, even if we go home. The past is a different country: that place we parted from where we can no longer arrive at. And what are we to do? Walk! Search! Story! For the scent of meaning. For the scent of beauty. For every foreign scent where we belong, what are we to do but run to burrow our nose in the kind wrist of a black woman who knows, and breathe, breathe, breathe.