They come rushing at you when you least suspect them.
You can walk into a house and take in the heady aroma of a cake being baked and you'll be transported back to your grandmother's kitchen. You can smell an empty beer bottle and suddenly there you are playing hide and seek behind a pile of your uncle's empties. Smell is our most powerful sense and we all have a repertoire of aromatic triggers nicely tucked away in that gluggy grey mass we call a brain.
For Smithy though it was a picture he found while cleaning out his shed that prompted him to seek me out. It was a fairly poor attempt at producing a 'film noir' style portrait of him out on Bear Island at La Perouse. It was taken way back in 1979 and now Smithy had typed my name into Facebook and there I was.
My profile was barely used but when my son uploaded a family photo onto it, all doubt as to which Mark Gibbs I was, was removed. There was no ambiguity. I was now in cyber space for all to find.
'Hi Gibbsy, ' his message read, 'Can you believe this social networking thing? I found an old pic you took back in the 70's and I thought I'd see if you are still alive and kicking. Looks like you are certainly making your way in the world. I'm up near Byron Bay with my partner and her kids and tomorrow I'm over to Lennox Heads to see mum... '
That was when my memory trigger snapped into life. It wasn't Smithy himself that did it, not overtly anyway, it was the word 'mum'.
' ... I'm sure she'll be pleased to hear I've made contact with you. If you are ever up here you'll have to come and visit.'
Funny thing that. The last thing I'd want is me turning up on my doorstep after an unexplained 30 year absence.
Now let me tell you about Smithy's mum. Smithy's mum was hot. If the term MILF had existed back in 1979, she would have been called one. I was 18 at the time and Smithy was a bloke I'd met at Art College. He was a bit 'out there' to say the least. He was the pot smoking, acid taking, long haired cliché of the 70's. Thanks to Smithy I met the horniest and most insatiable woman of all time, his mum.
Pam was 36. For the numerologically challenged she was twice my age. She'd had Smithy when she was 18 and as far as I know the father never hung around past the post-coital wipe. Pam taught art at a local girl's high school and was a very accomplished artist held in high esteem by the art fraternity. The man that lived with Pam was 'a boarder' called Jim. Jim lived in a granny flat out in the backyard. The granny flat was part of the garage/studio where Pam, Jim and Smithy worked on their artistic projects. Jim was an artist who'd had a few pissweak, pretentious and poorly attended exhibitions in wanky arthouses. To make ends meet Jim worked as a sign writer for a large company.
Everyone knew that Jim was her lover but even in the supposed free-wheeling and open 70's, it still wasn't OK to be living in sin. Especially not in lovely middle class Kogarah Bay, a suburb of Sydney.
I first met Pam when I cruised around to pick Smithy up before going to a friends exhibition. On entering the house the smell of incense filled my nostrils and even now, thirty years later, whenever I smell incense the memory trigger vortex opens up and I remember how stunning she looked as she sat at the kitchen table wearing a white cheesecloth shirt with a black bikini underneath. The sun filtered through her long brown hair and when she stood to greet me her tall lithesome figure silhouetted against the French doors.
I'm not usually one for shyness but I was instantly, and somewhat embarrassingly, taken aback by the sensuality of this woman. She walked and carried herself like a model and I was stupefied. She had the kind of cheekbones that would make most women curse her in envy. I wished that she had been my art teacher at high school and not the fat American idiot we'd had.
"Um hi," was about all I could say.
"Hi Mark," she said looking me in the eye. "I'm Pam, pleased to meet you at last."
I couldn't keep my eyes off her body and as she came closer I actually became more nervous. I looked anxiously over to Smithy and he just smiled and went into his room, leaving the two of us alone.
"Paul says that you are an accomplished photographer?" She asked.
"Oh, I'm getting there," I said.
"What do you like taking photos of?"
"People mainly," I said feeling a touch more relaxed. "I like the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson."
"Ah 'The Decisive Moment' man," she said putting the parenthesis in the air with her hands.
"You know about him then?" Stupid of me to say that of course, she was a bloody art teacher after all, but I was glad to know that I didn't have to make up the usual small talk that went with talking to other friends parents.
"I studied art for a few years," Smithy came back out of the room and she turned towards him, "I think that's where he gets his artistic skills from."
"Probably," he said to her, "You are an art teacher after all." He looked at me "Ready?" He said.
"Raring to go," I said.
"Enjoy," she said as we left.
I decided not to say anything to Smithy about how hot his mum was but I took every opportunity that presented itself to avail myself of her beauty. For about two months I appeared at his house more and more regularly with the excuse of wanting to see him about working on our artworks. Artworks that included a picture that 30 years later, would once again remind me of a time well spent.
It wasn't just physical though. We could talk art and politics well into the evening and get drunk and eat great food cooked by Jim. His only real talent was being a deft and creative cook. We would sit at the table and if our knees touched, or if we were so close we had to rub against each other, we wouldn't move. On a few occasions I was so wasted that I slept over and watched enviously as she and Jim caressed each other before going off to bed together. Thankfully they always went out to Jim's bed in the Granny flat and I crashed on the lounge.
It was on one visit, when I thought Smithy was at home, that things got exciting.
I'd just taken possession of a brand new Pentax MX with a fast f1.4 50mm lens and I was mad keen to test it out. I'd rolled five rolls of black and white film and I thought I'd do a few portraits of Smithy inside using available light
Pam answered the door and welcomed me, smiling more than usual, into the house. This time she was wearing a short floral mini skirt and a singlet top. She never wore anything that covered her tall, slender figure very much, and with a body like hers it was no surprise.
"What brings you here?" she asked.
"I've just got my new camera and I want to take a few shots of Paul," I called him Paul at home.
"He's not here," she said. "He's over at Julie's."
In my excitement I'd forgotten about his new girlfriend.
"Ah hell," I said. "Forgot about her."
"Do you have a girlfriend?" she asked.
"Not at the moment, no." Hell, technically I was still a virgin. All I'd ever had was a few hand jobs and a few blowies.
"Oh well, you will one day," she said. "Now what are you going to do?"
"I'm not sure."
"Would you like to take a few shots of me?"
I was flabbergasted. I could see that she was serious about the proposal when she turned and walked over to a dresser in the corner of the room.
"I had some taken by a friend a few months ago for Jim to do some paintings from but I'm not real happy about them," she said as she searched through the draws. When she bent over to look into the space below the draws, her arse poked nicely out. I felt like slapping it.
"Here they are," she pulled a folder out of the cramped dresser. She nodded at the dining table. "Take a seat."
I went to sit opposite her but she tapped the seat next to her.
"You'll see better here."
Her mini skirt rode up to within two inches of her panties and although I'd seen them many times before, it took all my powers of self control not to ogle her fantastic legs.
Pam patted the folder, looked me square in the eye and asked me a question I will never forget.
"Do you have an open mind?" she asked.
My stomach actually did a flip when she said that and I surprised myself with the answer.
"Yeah, umm of course I do," I stammered.
"Because some of these are a bit," she opened the folder and looked inside, "revealing."
Even without seeing anything I knew that we had entered a new stage in our two month old relationship. Until now all it had been was me perving at her while waiting for Smithy and talking about art and politics.
I smiled and looked at the folder. "I'm sure I'll cope."
She slid eight large black and white prints out of the folder and splayed them out in front of me.
They were all of her in a studio with some nice backlighting and a soft filter on the lens. In all of them she looked very uncomfortable and overly posed. She was wearing a long black dress that was meant to be all billowing and hip.
"He wanted me to look a bit like Stevie Nicks on that Rumours album," she said as she flipped them about, "but I don't like them."
"The lighting is OK," I said, "but you look too tense or something."
"I didn't like the concept too much so I asked him to change it."
"What to?" I asked.
"These," she said as she pulled out another four images. "These are the rude ones I was telling you about." She chuckled naughtily like a teenager.
.... There is more of this story ...