I used to be the girl that would occasionally pull out a cigarette for cliché purposes. You know; a writer, an artist, a socialite, an anxious girl, whatever you want to call it, I justified my reasons for smoking. Until one day, my boyfriend – also a smoker – told me that if I continued with this habit, I would eventually lose my sense of smell, and taste. Obviously I knew this was a possibility, along with mortality, but the realization that I may never be able to smell my favourite scents was literally enough to make me stomp out my Marlboros under my Jeffrey Campbell heels, and vow to never smoke again.
Scent is the one sense I could never live without. If it came down to it, you could take away my vision, my touch, my hearing – and all the music I love so much – but please, for heavens sake don’t take away my sense of scent!
The reason for my plea is simple; to me scent is a memory. One whiff of something and you’re either taken back to a memory of the boy with soft skin, whose neck was fragrant with musky cologne and aftershave. Or alternatively, one whiff of a cheap perfume and slew of memories of girls you couldn’t stand from high school come flooding into your mind like a stuffy science lab in the middle of September. There are so many memories on the spectrum of scent that I, for one, cannot live without.
If we haven’t formally met yet, I will warn you that I pride myself in being the girl that always smells good. I use products and perfumes with a light soft fragrance added to them, and my habit of smelling good is my little trick into making the boys (and girls) remember me.
When I first discovered the line of Replica fragrances by Maison Martin Margiela I was so delighted, I started budgeting my bankbook to acquire the entire line and relish in the memories they brought me.
So without further ado, let me take you to where these scents take me:
This scent takes me back to Campo di Giove in Italy. It’s a small town where my aunt lives, bless her soul. She doesn’t speak a word of English, but when we stay over she fills our bellies with pizza, pasta, cheese, coffee, vino and grappa. The first time I went there, my senses were filled with delight. In front of me was a mountain, and my aunt’s terrace was covered in flowers. Red, white, yellow, and pink; the railings were lined with bouquets spilling over the sides. I called my boyfriend, who was meeting us the week after, and told him I found paradise, and it smells like heaven. I sat there for as long as I could remember, and breathed in the fresh air. The softness of sunlight kissing my shoulders, the light scent of flowers lingering around me. I will never forget that moment.
This town consists of about 300 people, but in the summertime, that number almost doubles; grandchildren, long distance relatives, and everyone in between come to visit and stay for the summer. The roads are made of rubble, and if you ever get lost, some not-so-sound advice would be, “Just look for the mountain, and remember that you’re staying in front of it.” Albeit everyone in this town is lovely and welcoming, so it’s hard to ever really be lost. I remember one day I was looking for my brother, he went to visit the town cemetery, I thought the instructions were easy enough, “go straight, then turn right at the park”
However I missed the park, and went down the wrong path. I was greeted by an old tired dog, lying in the sun. I sat on the ground beside him and I rubbed his tummy. His owner came out and asked me what I was looking for, in my broken Italian I replied, “Quando muoi, dove vai?” which literally translates to, “When you die, where do you go?” he laughed, and walked with me to the cemetery, beside the park. He asked me who I was, and I told him I’m related to Emilia. He said “Ciao Emilia e Falco” and told me he’ll come by later for a glass of vino.
The sky was clear that afternoon, like something out of a film. I made it back to the terrace, and enjoyed the simplicity of it all. In the distance you could hear kids playing a tournament of Bossaball (A unique game of two teams, combining feats of volleyball, soccer and gymnastics, on an inflatable court); somewhere a Nonna was making pasta, and the elderly were skimming through the paper, smoking cigarettes and gossiping about the towns annual festival. It was hard not to be completely in love with the moment. I sat with Falco, no need for words, and we sipped espresso and listened to music. For some reason I recall asking him if he loved Tiramisù as much as I did, and he laughed. To my surprise that evening, his wife Emilia made us Tiramisù, and Falco winked at me.
At night, we met with our friends and walked around the town. We stumbled into pizza shacks, and had shots of tequila and limoncello. We drank wine, and in the alleyway we listened to a band singing Vasco Rossi – the Italian equivalent of Bruce Springsteen. The nights blended together for me. One night we were watching fireworks, another night we were singing silly Italian riddles, and getting to know the locals.
I always remember trying to lead the way home for us. Although my cousin could’ve simply walked us home (we were staying in the same house as him, after all) I insisted on leading the way. We took the long way home because it’s always better like that, and just when I thought I’d made another wrong turn, in the far away distance I could see something familiar. Red and white flowers scattered on the floor. There it was! I found it! My cousins were not nearly as impressed as I was with myself, but they encouraged me to lead us along. The night was warm, and we were tired, we dragged our feet up the stairs, I took another whiff of those flowers, a handful of petals in my hand, and fell peacefully asleep.
Two years since those warm August nights in Italy, and I can still remember it all so vividly. I didn’t expect this scent from Maison Margiela to take me all the way to Italy, but the memory is a warm reminder of one of the most peaceful moments in my life.