Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Fragrance Free

I react strongly to the sense of smell, as you might remember reading in this post. There are others than just the smell of my mother's perfume and my father's choice of chewing gum. J.'s aftershave, for one. Every time he would shave, I would notice and run over to him, nuzzling my nose against his jaw and neck just to inhale that beautiful smell. And when I went to visit him a few weeks ago, I went to use the guest bathroom - the one that became mine when we decided to call off our engagement and I moved to the guest room - and just the smell of the plastic shower curtain brought back a million memories of how I felt in those first few weeks after the break up.

But there have been other men in my life - others I've loved. And there are smells that remind me of them, too. One, in particular, I connected more with scent than any other sense. I could never adequately put into words exactly what he smelled like, but it was good. More than anything, I loved hugging him close, my cheek pressed to his and my mouth by his ear, and I could breathe deep and know that I was just breathing him. And when I would go spend time with him at his place, I would walk through that door and already I could smell that scent.

I'm not sure I can accurately claim that we ever had an official "relationship," but in our unofficial one, we went through two "break-ups." During the first one, we maintained contact, and I told him once how much I missed being able to inhale that scent as a part of missing him. Sure, I missed holding him, I missed talking to him and sharing my thoughts, and I missed the way he used to look at me and make me feel like in that moment, maybe I was what mattered most in the world. But more than anything, I missed that smell. And when we gave up on the break-up that was clearly not working, that smell was what I most loved having back.

The other day, I got out of the shower and started putting lotion on my legs. This wasn't new lotion - I've used it for months at least, if not years. But suddenly, it hit me. My lotion smelled exactly like this guy from my past - my fragrance-free lotion. And I cried. And cried. And cried. Because for all that I really missed that smell, having it rush back at me like that was more than I could handle.

My fragrance free lotion is not living up to its name.


And while we're on the subject, here's a very modern-ish poem I wrote during that period of my life:

Deeper remembrance of misbegot your-
hold, grasp, clutching with fists
Salvage my hurting by us disabuse
walling unholy protection of me.

Showing off sticky hands - ether or blood -
either ether either or
Streaking of chemicals webbing applied:
smudge, stick, spirits attend.

Snap Snap, rhythm intrigued
meter becomes the demandingest comm
but meter is second to meet her (or him)
thoughts - focus - love-in absorb

The vast unfolding why of not
knotted up in nodding sleep
Ravel - un - the sleep of dreams
Life a vacant space of waking.

And who? the you in us connected
me, I, alone on empty.
Reassurance failing falls and
Dover's peaks forgetting.

That one has much more meaning than the last one.


Amanda said...

Beautiful and piercing.

Still Jill B said...

Wow, I can relate to the smell thing (I thought that last time you talked about it too).

Maybe it should be "I dream in color and smell..."

Amanda said...

Oh my goodness. I love this entry. Isn't it amazing really? There is this Jasminey smell that always transports me instantly back to India. Certain curries too, but not the kind we smell here often. As for people smells...well, I am not even going to go there. ;)

Anonymous said...

I hear you (smell you?) on the fragrances. Jase has a smell (ha! That sounds hilarious) that is just him.. I've never smelled it before, and I know it's just.. HIM.

My brother wears the same aftershave as my ex. Blech.

I think you need some new fragrance free lotion!

Anonymous said...

So in undergrad I took this behavioral ecology class where we read this study about pheromones. Apparently they aren't just a savage animal thing but we are subject to them too. It is suspected that this has to do with women having the same cycles as their roommates and stuff. But the study we read had men volunteer to wear a shirt to bed and then put it in a baggie with a number on it. Women were asked to smell these shirts and rank the visual attractiveness of the men who wore the shirts. Their rankings interestingly enough had to do with immunity. Women preferred the smells of men who had complimentary (different) immmune factors like rhesus, etc. This is evolutionary since you would want variety in your offspring which would give them a likelihood of surviving compared to others that don't have the variety. But less bio... that means that women are actually have a real smell sense about their men, and that is one thing that attracts us to them.
When I tell OP he smells good, I think he thinks I'm insane. So be it. Its bio!

aMom2E said...

That smell memory can be a scarry thing, but along with the tough ones comes the great, joy-bringing ones. Anytime I smell angelfire perfume I am reminded of my mom when I was a little girl. She hasn't worn that perfume for years, but that scent takes me back to being 8 years old. Before I would go to Girl Scout camp Mom would rub all over my pillow so I would still have her scent. Hopefully the good smells (memories?) outweigh the tough ones. Thank you for sharing this story with us!

Anonymous said...

Wow. The smell of jasmine and frangipani transports me back to India to, and I lived there in 1979.

The smell of Trésor reminds me of my Mum.

You hit the nail on the head, a sense of smell can be one of the most powerful and overwhelming things in the world.

cce said...

A scent can bring it all crashing home. I think music can be just as evocative. I'm so thankful that Ralph Lauren discontinued Monogram cologne awhile back because it was just sooo awful to feel like weeping after passing a perfect stranger in the post office who happened to wear the same scent of my first and deepest love. Sometimes I wish I had saved just one drop in bottle to take out and savor every once in awhile. I wonder what he smells like now that Monogram is off the market.

Kilgore Trout said...

I have severe allergies so my sniffer was never a critical asset to me, but at least according to some ad recently the sense of smell is the most closely tied to memory so this all makes sense. Makes me wish my nose worked instead of just leaking.

BTW: I like your photos. That was my real reason for commenting.

Amanda said...

You are hilarious. I mean, truly. Even if you disabled comments on your most recent post, that had to be said. lol. =)

Mr. B-G said...

Thanks for checking out my blog earlier. I really admire your openness and willingness to bare your soul - that's the mark of a true artist.

One day I might like to have a blog where I reveal more personal thoughts and feelings, but for right now I feel comfortable with the "professionally personable" persona I've created for my blog.

I've always enjoyed reading memoirs and well-written personal narratives. I think true, honest, unpretentious writing contains universalities that we can all relate to.

I hope to be able to find the time to return and read more often.

I also really liked your Thursday Thirteen photo-blog. The pictures were cute and telling.

Write on!

- Mr. B-G

Anonymous said...

You complained that I hadn't been commenting in awhile, so here I am. Did you know *you* have a smell, too? It's sweet, like perfume, except maybe you don't even use perfume and I'm imagining it. But all mothers have this sweet smell. Like a baby smell, except with mothers. I smell it when you hug me close, and my head fits perfectly into your arms and chest. Hooray! It cheers me up. Heart, Kimmie.

Anonymous said...

HEY!!! I voted!! (Can I vote more than once??) The reason I ask is because I love this post! Of course, I love all of yours... But your poem was just fantastic! I love that sort of verse. I want to read more!

I so agree with you about smell triggering memories.... good and bad. I lost much of my sense of smell after my cancer surgery since I can't breathe thru my nose, but every once in a while......

Lara said...

amanda - thank you, dear. :)

jill b - the funny thing is that i *don't* dream in color. :-P but yeah, smell is so strong for me, for better or worse.

amanda v. 2.0 - yeah, there are place smells for me, too. churros and popcorn make me think of disneyland, and the ocean reminds me of home.

aly - ooh, get your bro some new aftershave, chica. i just got some new lotion, so hopefully that will help.

charcoal - nice, that's very interesting. OP always thinks girls are insane, so don't worry about it.

ffbgirl - i know, you're right. there are wonderful, beautiful smells as well, like babies, and horse stalls - my mom's perfume, and my dad's chewing gum. it's a mixed blessing, certainly.

lala - yep, tresor: my mom's choice too. this came up before. :)

cce - oh, i agree about music, too. songs can often transport me to another time and place as well. i'm sure the smells of my various exes will always be with me in some way.

kilgore trout - well, having a nose that doesn't work too well is probably a mixed blessing. see what i said to ffbgirl - good smell memories and bad.

amanda - hahahaha... i'm glad you enjoyed the increased shamelessness. ;)

mr. b-g - thank you for stopping by here! i think it would be great to someday have a blog i can share with my students, but the kind of openness i have here is probably too much for some of them. and i'm glad you enjoyed the photos - i love them too.

kimmie - wow, that was so beautiful and sweet. thank you! i'm glad you enjoy my special mommy smell. :)

r u serious? - thanks! i'm so glad you enjoyed the poem in particular. it meant a lot to me personally.