Last month I trudged through six different airports and blame their duty-free supercenters for getting me back into wearing perfume, after having successfully weaned myself of the bottles for close to a decade. Inside of those brightly-lit travelers’ traps, I browsed, listened to sales proposals, eventually needed to use up about 30 euros before re-crossing my favorite ocean, and there are only so many bags of meltable Milka chocolate I’m willing to cram into a carry-on.
The aromas of the Versace perfumes, particularly the ones located on the discount rack, were intoxicating. Since then, every now and then, I’ve dabbed a drop behind each ear before stepping out. The habit doesn’t hurt, and is something I like to think Liberace might not have been able to leave home without doing.
My mom hardly ever wore perfume, and when she did it was usually a label I didn’t love. But when I picked up the heavy black bottle and sprayed some of the scent onto my fingers in the Palermo airport two weeks ago, my worries temporarily floated away. Two other bottles I sniffed took me back to my high school persona, more than merely looking at them would have. In junior high, I toted around and publicly broke big bottles of Malibu Musk, a brand that was conspicuously absent from the duty-free inventories but an odor I can still sort of call up in my head. During an uncomfortable two-day cold I came down with a few weeks ago, the main downer was not being able to smell the fresh espresso, pesto, and mountainside air, although my mood changed when I ran into and kissed a stray dog on a cobblestoned street. He resembled a dog I used to have who, after going both blind and deaf, loudly sniffed his way around and outside of the house, just as contentedly as he’d done when his eyes and ears were intact.