It is strange how the smallest things can trigger memory. The sight of a falling leaf could remind one of an autumn spent with school friends, running and playing together. A scarcely caught scent could send one's mind spiralling back several years, thinking of how one's father smelled the day he finished building a bookshelf—sawdust, leather work gloves and sweat. Perhaps the barest touch of a stranger passing by could remind one of an angry friend brushing past in a crowded hallway.
Scent was what triggered the memory of Doctor Hannibal Lecter. It was true that his eyesight was spectacular, but his sense of smell was uncanny. He had an affinity for fine perfumes and cologne. It was the scent of damp earth and growth that reminded him of playing as a child, rather than the sight of a freshly fallen leaf.
He always associated the scents with scenes and colours in his mind, but it was scents that he noticed first. Walking into a crowded area, a restaurant for example, Hannibal would note and catalogue everything he smelled, storing it in his brain to mark memories. The sharp tang of mustard, the sweeter aroma of ketchup and a telltale meaty whiff of the kitchen would register before the quality of the lights, the diversity of the people and the decorations would.
Hannibal thought that certain smells provoked emotion too. Often enough it was because he linked particular smells with a memory. Nondescript skin creams always reminded him of Clarice. They were not fancy creams with special ingredients, nor were they fun colours or certain scents. Simply a moisturizing cream for overworked skin.
Clarice didn't need a special cream or certain perfume, Hannibal had decided. Sure, he had gotten fragrances mixed specifically for her, but her own natural musk was pleasing in itself. It was unassuming and warm. Often when they were in bed together, Hannibal would push his face into her hair to quietly inhale her scent. If Clarice was aware of it, she didn't let on. Usually when Hannibal did it, she was about to fall asleep and would merely curl closer to him, murmuring a soft "good night."
Rain was a smell that Hannibal loved equally to Clarice's. He didn't care for being wet, but he loved the smell of rain. As soon as storm clouds began to gather in the sky, Hannibal was out the door in a jacket. Clarice accompanied him occasionally, but typically he liked to go alone.
He would walk until the rain began to fall in fat droplets. Once the rain was falling adequately, he would find the nearest park. If he was lucky there would be thunder. In a park, he'd stand in the middle of the grass, arms outstretched and face upturned. Raindrops would patter against his palms and in that moment, with thunder rolling in the clouds and Mother Nature soaking him to the bone, Hannibal could almost feel that the prosthetic he wore was flesh and blood.
Sometimes he didn't come home for hours. Clarice would try not to worry, knowing that he could take care of himself. One night he didn't come home at all. The apartment door had finally clicked open at five am. Clarice then roused herself from the couch and confronted him immediately. "What the hell?" She had spat at him.
"Hmm?" He asked her distantly and hung up his soaking jacket.
"You had me so worried! You've been gone for eleven hours!"
"Clarice," he had breathed; his eyes still lit from his escapade in the rain. "I felt it, Clarice."
"Whole. I was whole again."
She had studied his face for a few beats and then glanced at his hands. In a flash of insight, she understood. Saying no more, she had led him to the bedroom and helped him out of his wet clothes. That night, Clarice had felt that she understood her partner completely. And for Hannibal, that night, he became a whole man once again, equipped with both his hands.
He fell asleep surrounded by Clarice's scent and warmth.