The other night my son told this funny story about eating potpourri. He was only eight years old at the time, and wondering why something that looked like food would be so tantalizingly displayed in a bathroom, of all places. So, yeah, he took a nibble, realized it was NOT food and got the vile tasting stuff out of his mouth with as much speed and dignity as an eight year old boy can muster. I'm not a big potpourri fan.... incense is more my speed... smoke, spark and ember bathed in a spicy haze. But I don't have incense burning in my bathroom. Mostly my bathroom smells like, well, a bathroom, this in spite of my spouse's occasional jests about alien shits (mine, apparently). I leave these behind in my own and in many other bathrooms with no small sense of pride, happy to take the credit for the products of my labours. But, I digress. I was going on about bathrooms and the means used to keep them appropriately fragrant, and the dangers of inedible fragrance makers to unsuspecting or just plain curious bathroom users.
Bathrooms --not only those in the home but, increasingly, public ones--are well dispersed across a spectrum of odour intervention. I've been unduly - some might say, morbidly-fascinated by this phenomenon over the years. I've been exposed to magnificent opulence, wing chairs, draperies, soft lighting, floral displays, bowls of potpourri and floating candles. I am almost embarrassed to do my business--much less the paperwork--in such luxurious and sacred spaces. There are also bottom of the barrel grunge pits with such well entrenched odour it has morphed into a slick--or, slime, perhaps?--that creeps over floors and walls. Breathtaking... indeed, breath-holding... in its glory. One feels privileged to add to such a body of work.
being present with odour...being present with fragrance..... who can make scents of it? one person's odour is another's fragrance; one person's fragrance ... another's odour. Tolerances are idiosyncratic, and, to be fair, it's not only bathrooms where odours dwell and flourish; it's also kitchens and basements and elementary schools, nurseries and brothels and diners, airports and bus stations and..... well, you can see the sheer immensity of it all.
I am struck, however, by tolerances around bathrooms and, it grieves me to say, around bodies. Human ones, anyway. Shit--ok, I'll be more genteel-- poo blends with the various masquerading contributors to olfactory comfort and joy and visitors encounter not one, not the other, but an even more exotic hybrid: rosepoo. Some bathrooms waft this remarkable achievement via sprays, candles, plug-ins and, yes, potpourri. My hands and nostrils carry away its remnants as a damp and tepid memory of time well spent. A body may smell like a meadow or an ocean, a flower, tree, herb, spice or breeze.... anything other than smelling like a body. Scents are the means by which women fling themselves uncontrollably at casually sauntering men, and are no less the means by which men are mesmerized by the allure of chest heaving, pouting, glassy-eyed, wild -maned women. Common scents, I suppose; or uncommon ones.
Fragrance, odour, repulsive, compelling; the desire to draw closer into a pungent nearness, seduction and ambush, all that awaits, riding on something as personal and fragile as scent. Still.... I have to say, I know it's you before I see you, and I take a tender delight in that sweet anticipation.