Most don’t realize it, but there is more involved with a rich experience of a perfume than simple inhalation. If you rush it or force it, all is lost. In fact, it is best not to inhale at all. To maximize the olfactory uptake, especially of a really fine subtle sent, you let it flow through your nostrils of its own accord. Allow it to linger. Then maybe draw in more very gently and slowly. While keeping an eye on she off whom it floated.
The very old part of your brain that manages the sense of smell will conjure something up for you to combine with the view. Unfortunately the process often ends up feeling like inhaling screen or something out of Bosch. Get what you pay for, tart.
But sometimes when my wife walks past I’m left in a special sort of ethereal reverie. An unexpected existential elevation – transitory to be sure, but all the more effective for the fact. Oh yaaa. Wow! That’s who she is…
One’s sense of smell can be incredibly generative. The briefest waft can catalyze memories by the torrent. I remember once when my kids were very young I picked up a crayon and smelled it. A hallucination ensued of me in my youth with coloring books and my brothers at our kitchen table. Proust began his novel In Search Of Lost Time with the protagonist sniffing a small French cake called a Madeline which act brought forth such cerebration that seven volumes were required to get to the denouement.
Remember in Silence of the Lambs when Lecter first meets Clarice and says: “You use Evyan cream and sometimes you wear L’Air du Temps, but not today…”? It was a crucial part of the flic for a variety of reasons. We already knew that he was a beast, but then in that dungeon we learn that he was cultured and preternaturally discerning.
The choice of that particular scent was prescient. The name translates as “the air of the time” or zeitgeist in other words. The film went on to win five Academy Awards and could thus be said to have been at the leading edge of consciousness back then in the early nineties.
What in Lord’s name does that say about us? That millions around the world would pay good money (and still do) to watch a horrible cannibalistic psychopath? Does it numb or sensitize? It’s interesting to juxtapose Dr. Lecter and Hanna Schmitz (cf March 6 below). Few would find Lecter banal. Should that be reassuring in some way?
In the end, after his gruesome escape when he called Clarice from calm repose, how was it that his feelings toward her would have him say: “I have no plans to call on you, Clarice, the world being more interesting with you in it”?
Could it have been her perfume?