Scents and Sensibility

By Denise Pace

If I could invent my own perfume, it would be a blend of celery and dirt. Those two smells have always caused me to sit starkly upright, breathe in deeply through my nose, hold, and exhale with a lip smack and a mighty "Ah!" Sometimes I stretch and scratch my tummy, too. Either one of 'em will do it, but I think that the combination could only be irresistible, and not only to myself. I envision dazed menfolk wandering around in my wake, sniffing the air with spiral eyes, and a frantic loop spinning through their heads: "A woman who smells like celery and dirt! I must have her!" Then, they would fall at my feet, and I could just pick out a nice big clean one to be my boyfriend (Me: "You're my boyfriend!" Him: "OK!" No muss, no fuss). Employers would seek me out, "We don't know why exactly, but we, well, we sense you are a strong, capable woman, at the top of your field. We would like to give you no small sum would you work this fantastic job we custom-created for you at this most ethical of organizations. Oh, and we also have take-your-pet-to-work day." I would again be able to visit nursing homes, since the exquisite blend of celery and dirt would probably act as a protective shield: the elderly, with reduced olfactory faculties, would cease to squeeze my cheeks whilst exclaiming over my dimples. Perhaps they would lift a palsied hand in an attempt, but the prophylactic power of my odor would smack them down. I would also desire to attribute a marked decrease in traffic gridlock and an increase in overall friendliness to my wearing this magical combination, but then, I think I'd be stepping beyond logical possibility. Still, one can hope. Therefore, to this end (since it always somehow, no matter how inadvertently, seems to be to an end), I have been pursuing, in my usual fervently lackadaisical manner, some celery and dirt fusion.

How did this all happen? Well, I never much cared for perfume. I considered it, with good cause, to be of the ilk of pink, or ruffles, or fluffy white kittens; in short, it was stinky girl stuff. However, like so many things, in one quick moment of adolescence, all of that changed. I planted my first very own garden. I did the clearing, the soil-turning, the selecting and planting, the watering, the weeding, and naturally, the harvesting when the fruits, which were actually vegetables, were ready. I was fine with the corn and the tomatoes; the peppers and cauliflower phased me not in the least. But one day, as I approached my celery patch, preparing to pull the first bunch from the ground, I was struck with a quivering frenzy. I'd left it in too long, so it wouldn't taste any good, but that was quickly rendered unimportant.

It. Smelled. Great.

My excited trembling as I shook it loose from the dirt not only helped the project but also heightened the aroma. Inhale, hold, lipsmack, aaahhh. I didn't scratch my tummy on account of I was still holding the celery, and I thought that the scratching might result in a rather untoward tumbling of the celery and dirt into my pants. And after all, I wasn't some pervert who liked it when celery and dirt landed in her pants; I just wanted to smell it. As far as I know. No, I think I would know by now. It's just the smell.

This, right here in my hands, was my perfume. This, this celery and dirt, embodied who I was. Thus would I proclaim myself to all around me. If only there were any means to preserve it, or contain it. Sure, I could go out into vast fields of celery and roll around in the dirt just before special occasions, but I don't think it would be near as appreciated as it was intended. I needed the power to harness dirt. And celery. Celery in dirt. Should probably be portable, too.

I kept that uprooted batch of celery for a few weeks. Named it Flora. Finally, it was all shriveled and wiggly and my Mom made me throw it out. And it never smelled so good as when I had just pulled it from the earth. Still, just having this knowledge, just having smelled this wonderful smell, was almost as fulfilling as having the actual concoction. Knowing that this odor existed on the same planet as I would hold me all the way up until about last year, when I learned the joy of cheese fried in cheese and covered in mole sauce. But that's another story for another time.

So anyway, a few months ago, I was reading the paper, and there was an article about this new, avant-garde perfume company that made colognes that smell like stuff… you know, Angel Food Cake, Bourbon, Chocolate, Earthworm, Lobster, Pruning Shears. All true. (Incidentally, most Chicago men preferred Spicy Pumpkin.) Among the flavors mentioned by the paper was a perfume called…Dirt!

How great! My lifelong dreams would be partially borne out! I could finally smell like the dirty half of the celery-and-dirt combo! That was a strong start. Perhaps, instead of dazed menfolk and primo jobs and old folks' homes, I could just have my pick of squirrels that had been freshly dinged on the head by automobiles. Squirrels are kind of cool. They eat peanuts from my hand and run over my cat. She hates that. Well, that was enough convincing for me. I ordered it. I'd never ordered anything on the Internet before, possessing a reflexive mistrust of anything that wants me to do typing and give it money, but I did it. I could hardly wait for it to arrive…

Alright, you aren't going to believe this, but when I finally got the stuff, I was a little disappointed. The problem was, well, basically, it didn't smell like dirt at all. It smelled kind of like Cutter, or something clean and green. It wasn't bad, but it certainly wasn't dirt. And it certainly wasn't going to be near so intoxicating and powerful as celery and dirt. Still, my job's all right, my boyfriend's usually clean, and old German men were kissing me just a couple of weeks ago. So I wear "Dirt". Sometimes it makes me feel kind of sad and had when I wear it, kind of like the time TV lied to me. But usually, it's OK. It's OK.

Postscript: While researching this article, I learned there is now a perfume bearing the moniker "Celery." Developments will be posted as the situation warrants. Unless you just know…

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Copyright©2002 by Denise Pace.

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