Have you ever experienced just sitting or being someplace random, and being hit with a strong scent of flowers out of nowhere?
What I'm about to tell you is a story that started around two years ago, and has lately become increasingly frequent to me over the past several months. To tell the story, I need to tie it in with my experiences a long time ago.
Plumeria flowers, also known as frangipani (src)
Plumeria and my childhood memories
Have you ever smelled a plumeria flower? The earliest recollection of my experience with plumeria was when I started kindergarten at five years old. My kindergarten was part of a church compound, and friends and I would play in an open field that were surrounded by trees upon trees of plumeria along the roadside. The smell would surround me until right after I finished my primary school at 12 years old, since my school was located around the same vicinity as the kindergarten I went to.
Nevertheless, my most vivid memory of the smell of plumeria was during a trip to Penang when I was either nine or eleven years old in the mid-1980s. One night, after an interesting dinner along the open stalls of the Weld (at least that's what my memory recalled... I'm pretty sure it was along a beach-side), our family decided to take the rickshaw back to our hotel at Hilton.
Along the way, we passed by an area with really old wall-like barriers that are partly cemented, partly bricked, lined with tall plumeria trees within. That was when the strongest, sweetest scent of plumeria hit the air. I've always loved the aroma of plumeria, and I was just basking in joy of the experience. Since it was dark, I couldn't quite see what was beyond the walls, so I asked the rickshaw driver what place we were passing.
He answered: a cemetary. As soon as he said that, moonlight came out seemingly from nowhere and instantly shone upon a un-walled fenced area, where I could clearly see rows upon rows of old tombstones behind it. Gulp. LOL.
I was too shook to ask the rickshaw anything else, so I didn't know what that place was exactly, but I suspected it was the old Protestant Cemetary along Jalan Farquhar.
Interestingly enough, for all its seemingly eerie atmosphere, I wasn't scared at all. My shock was more because I didn't expect a surrounding so serene could house something so unexpectedly... ghastly. I mean, I could even imagine myself gladly camping out there under the night sky if I hadn't known what that place was about.
I suppose that is why this particular memory was so vivid to me even to this day, and why I relate this event to the smell of plumeria the most.
The re-emergence of the plumeria scent
While I don't remember any specific event that could trigger my memory of when it started two years ago, I did specifically remember where and what I was doing. It was night time, and I was driving off to the office to catch up on some unfinished work (which, in hindsight is a little strange to me because I don't recall being that super busy... but I was a workaholic and going to the office at night has happened many times before).
Specifically, I was driving down a road I usually take, and this road is nearby a landfill. Passing through this road usually gives off an often odious stench due to all the rubbish and waste disposed there.
Driving in the dark (src, photo courtesy of Spaces Images / Getty Images)
That particular night, though, with the windows open, I thought I smelled something flowery and familiar. I disregarded the scent at first, but then I smelled in again a few more times over the next several months after, often while driving. As I recall, it was often around that dark road that I usually caught a whiff of that flowery smell, but that wasn't always the case. I found myself experiencing that smell again at random times on different roads, still while driving. As I encountered the smell over the past two years, I started to smell it even during daytime. Still, it was only once a month, at most. And always, while I was alone and driving.
I wasn't complaining, though, because as this phantom smell continued, I remembered where I smelled it before. As soon as I smelled it the second time, I had a flashback to the memory of when I was in Penang that night.
I realised that it was the scent of my most favourite flower in the world. The frangipani. Ah.
The frangipani scent was not a big deal until...
In these past four months, I'm not sure what has happened. But the frangipani scent began to appear more often. Still during random times, regardless of whether it was day or night, whether I left my car windows open or closed, I could still smell it. Later, it evolved to where the scent appeared while I was walking. Once, on my way to ride a bus, and another time, while I was walking in town to the nearest shopping mall.
Then, the smell appeared again while I was driving, but this time, I had my kids with me in the car. I thought, alright, so this isn't a solo thing anymore. I wonder what's happening? I didn't think of searching the Internet for "sudden smell of flowers" until very recently.
Here's the thing I want to admit: I can be a little superstitious. Old folklore says that if you smell something you're pretty sure came out of nowhere, don't acknowledge it by saying out loud that you can smell it. You may be inviting whatever "it" is, if you do.
So that's what I've been doing. I didn't want to acknowledge it, so I didn't even dare to wonder what the smell was from. Nevertheless, this month was the breaking point. I can't be having olfactory hallucinations, can I? Is this an early onset of Alzheimer's disease?!
After a bit of Internet reading, I boiled down my scent issue to two or three things: 1) if it's all in my head, then I'll be the only one to smell it and it's indeed an olfactory hallucination and I'm actually sick; 2) if others can smell it as I can, then it's actually a real smell and it didn't really come from nowhere, but from 2a) something natural and solid, like soap, shampoo, detergent, etc, or 2b) something unnatural and unspeakable.
I further deduced 2b to two things: if the scent gives me a bad vibe or feels sinister, then "it" isn't a good thing, otherwise it's cool.
It's time to put my sanity to the test
The plumeria smell has appeared at random times now for several times a week, even as I was doing house chores, typing away at my desk, or heading to sleep.
Last week, the scent was especially strong. It was evening, and I was sitting on my desk doing work on my laptop. My desk is in the living room, and I had the main door open. And I smelled it.
I called my kid, who was busy watching YouTube, over to my desk, and asked, "Do you smell anything flowery?"
"A little," he answered.
And, just like that, "it" disappeared.
So I wasn't hallucinating. We both then walked over to the main entrance door to see if the smell came from outside. There was no smell.
Suddenly, the scent came back!
"Can you smell it now?" I asked my son.
"Yeah," he answered.
"Does it stink?"
"Nope. What is it?"
So I told him what I think it was. He totally freaked out.
My other kid could smell it, too.
As of this moment, even my eldest kid admitted he can smell it at home, after I told him my plumeria scent story. He thought it was my perfume. The smell was never on me but only near me, I told him. While we continued talking about this, we were in my car heading to some place nearby. The scent came and went twice during our trip this evening. We both smelled it.
What do I think the frangipani smell is about?
In Malaysian folklore, the scent of frangipani is tied to a sinister vampiric female entity called pontianak (do you understand my hesitation now?). I had to take this possibility out of the equation, though, because the scent happens so randomly that it doesn't match the modus operandi of the supposed vampire 😂
Another possibility is that, according to some testimonies, sudden scent of flowers could be a manifestation of someone close to me whom have passed away. That wouldn't be the case for me, because the phantom smell started years before and as I recalled, there wasn't any particularly significant family loss two years ago. All I remembered was attending marriages and going for school reunion gatherings.
That leaves me with one other possible explanation.
It's always good to believe in good things
Whether it's a spirit guide or an angel sending me a sign or protecting me, I would like to think that that scent is a positive energy. At the very least, I sure enjoy the smell; smell is my favourite of all five senses. Coincidentally, plumeria aromatic healing is associated with the mind and memory, so it is possible that that the universe is telling me that I need to work on uncluttered thoughts and "brain fog", struggles which I can relate to.
Whatever the scent is or the plan is, I am grateful.
It all begins and ends in your mind. What you give power to has power over you, if you allow it.Leon Brown
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