26

Oct 18

America’s Perfume

She smelled American. It was a perfume not made of fruity things, but it wasn’t too citrus either. She had a large American flag in her dorm room and a wall covered in pictures with friends, family, and places from her hometown in New-Jersey. This is the kind of woman who spoke with her body more than her mouth – and it was true even in bed. It did not take much to understand that her timidity arose out of her newness in the city. She was a first year undergraduate here while I was still a high school senior when we met. Her physical shyness quickly faded with time and left place to a regrettable verbal confidence. To me, it was always a wonderful sight to see her body act comfortably both in motion through passersby and during full intimacy at night. She had a mix of ease and grace swinging through crowds. She was more careful at choosing her words with me than stepping on icy sidewalks.

Two years after the facts – and our acquaintance expired – I found an old postcard she sent me when she was away for winter holidays in some town near New-York. On the back of it she wrote that she could not stop thinking about me because the Christmas market would have been a nice place to take a walk together. After rereading this card a few times, I finally understood that she liked me, and that I had the power to birth a romance out of us if I had wanted to. Little by little the memories came back to me lined up like a series of clues. I stood still with the postcard delicately held between my fingers, facing something I overlooked two years ago.

We had many walks in the city. Once in the fall, we walked up the hill in Westmount, talking of fetishes and life ambitions. We arrived on Summit Circle street to a wide sight of downtown Montreal. We leaned on the fence and examined the view. I put my arm around her waist and told her there was a piece of the Berlin wall in one of those towers. Then we faced each other and went for a kiss. She must have been impressed and passionate about the scene of us two kissing on a hill in front of a panoramic view of Canadian skyscrapers – because at least I was.

Every time we were finished having sex we would lay on her bed for a while. We would have been savages, ruthless fuckers thirty to sixty seconds ago, and I would face up toward her ceiling afterward hoping to face the fatality of the moment. She always wanted to cuddle afterward. She would be holding on to me with an arm across my chest and one leg across mine. Sometimes I would look at her American flag and joke about how it was the most nationalist thing I ever saw: “a flag in a dorm room.” I would try my most redneck accent while saying “’Murica, fuck yeah!” and she would burst a laugh. She also laughed when I teased her about her father being the most American dad who plays golf on Sundays and puts up a barbecue with fireworks every Fourth of July. Most of our romantic physics would happen while the Red Hot Chili Peppers played on her phone.

She saw many sides of me. The confident and smart overachiever I am in her dorm at night; the clumsy stressed idiot who spilled an entire cup of coffee on the first date; and the creep, the mentally deficient who called her every day of the month when things were about to end. I saw her grow too. She was the boring, shy, sexually unsatisfied girl who became the confident, superficial bitch of a lady you can find in American college stadiums. She had a likeness for scarves and would make fun of the amount of layers I would wear in the winter. She was the kind of person keen to making hot chocolate with water instead of milk. And that perfume, I don’t know what it’s called. She would put it abundantly on her before we met at night, and I could smell it on every bit of her skin. It brings back memories of her physical imprint on me. She would press here and I would press there, and it all smelled the same. Even her skin was not Canadian and felt different to my foreigner touch. My voice would speak to her ears and they would answer with the same pleasing smell. Through her physical grace she taught me that skin can have not only scent, but also taste and sounds – of a pounding heartbeat when facing an American flag. But this is all in the past, and I digress.

I was sitting at my desk in the library recently, and this redhead has walked by me a few times already. I instantly recognized Jessica’s perfume. As she was leaving her seat for the last time, putting on her winter coat and bracing herself for the cold outside, I thought of the multiple possibilities that could happen. I thought of catching up to her before she reached for the door:

“Excuse me, this is weird, but your perfume reminds me of someone I used to know. Can you tell me what it is?”
“Oh, sure, it’s …”
“Thanks a lot, I really appreciate it.”
“No problem!” She smiled, and left.

But I did not do any of this. I want to think of Jessica every time this scent comes up to my nose, not of its name or the luxury company manufacturing it. I want her to have invented this perfume. If, for instance, I ever sit next to a woman in the bus with the same scent, I want my thought to be “she smells like her” instead “Jessica smelled like that.” I want this perfume to be the immediate opening of a memory recalling my first encounter with America. It’s The Jessica, and nothing else.

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