It’s said that some of our earliest memories are tied to our sense of smell, and I can’t disagree. Some of my own early recollections involve the scents people wore…the stiff sweetness of less than sincere smiling church ladies drenched in their cloying Estee Lauder Youth Dew while their husbands’ Old Spice cowered in the upper air, obviously not up to the challenge
The most important of these memories isn’t even technically scented. It’s of my grandmother’s treasured My Sin – rarely worn, the tiny bottle sitting in its place of honor on her dresser. I struggle to remember the actual smell of the stuff, but probably because it’s overshadowed by the sheer wickedness of the name, so much in contrast with Grandmama herself. I remember a musky undertone though, and I’ve always preferred my own scent to be spicy, musky, with amber notes.
A few nights ago I went out with a friend to celebrate her birthday. We chatted over drinks, ending up at an extra divey bar for (not as great as advertised) nachos. When she left I stayed on for a bit, gambling on the penny slots. Slowly losing money has an allure I haven’t quite figured out yet, but it’s mindless and makes for some interesting people watching.
After a while I smelled something like soap mixed with beer, melted cheese and and a tiny bit of amber. It actually smelled almost pleasant, and I turned to find the source. A couple was gambling while their food was being brought to a nearby table. The guy sat down to start in on a huge burger, his protruding belly leaned close to the table. His partner moved to the machine next to me, her skin-tight white pants and sparkly belly shirt catching my eye. Her black hair was long and insanely straight, but somehow more plastic than human. Being cursed with a hatred of silence, I said, “What’s that scent you’re wearing? It’s familiar…”.
Well, before I could get the full thought out, she shoved a small roller ball applicator under my nose…obviously proud of her signature smell. I took a much larger whiff than intended, and it was honestly all I could do to not turn away…the taste of hour-old nachos creeping up the back of my throat. She told me the name of the concoction, but I was far too focused on not falling off my stool to catch it.
About that time she grabbed my left wrist, her long neon orange nails glowing in the poker machine light. “Here you go!” she squealed, coating my inner wrist with the greasy roller ball from fragrance HELL.
“Oh my god,” I thought to myself in slow motion, movie-scene words as the hussy grabbed my other wrist to spread the evil smell even farther. It felt like she was trying to start a fire, rubbing my wrists together, the friction stirring up the atoms of the noxious liquid and throwing them up into the air and farther up into my brain.
“She’s a hooker….” I screamed silently, “…obviously a hooker…”
“If I live through this, I’ll never talk to strangers again…”
“O.M.G…WHERE HAS THAT ROLLERBALL BEEN BEFORE THIS????”
And then her counterpart waved the scent demon over to the table with an angry swiping motion, and the funk dispenser was gone…her damage done. I cashed out, grabbed my coat and left, a trail wafting behind me.
When I got home I scrubbed my wrists, but mere soap was no match for the smell. I finally dowsed my hands in rubbing alcohol up to my elbows, and the world was good again. I slept restlessly that night, waking periodically to odd thoughts of Irish Spring, Budweiser, wet dog and dying gardenias.
I later described the roller ball smell as a cross between Miss Kitty from Gunsmoke and a Dollar Store air freshener but, in retrospect, there may have been just a tiny bit of church lady thrown in. I’m also pretty sure there was some Sin in the mix, but it wasn’t mine, so I think Grandmama would approve.