At some point during my teenage years, sometime during the late 1980’s, my mom had an inexplicable thing for Calvin Klein’s Obsession parfum. Not the watered down eau de parfum that anyone can get these days, but the oily, “pure” stuff that came in a tiny, squat bottle. She’d tell us girls if we were to try it for ourselves, only the teeniest drop would do the trick, and she wasn’t lying. We’d know whenever my folks were planning on going out at night, and I know when I’d be roped into babysitting my sisters because I’d be able to smell her from all the way on the other side of the house. Every time she and my father got gussied up in their finest for some gathering or event where my dad’s official presence was required, she’d smell as if she’d bathed in a tub of heady, liquid amber and spicy, baked florals. My father swooned over the stuff, or so she claimed to us. I suppose she liked it, too, but I’ll never know for sure, not anymore. Personally, I think she wore it because he liked it. During the day, she’d smell of burnt coffee grounds (my parents were both caffeine junkies, drinking several cups of coffee a day) and soapy linens, so the signal that she was ready for evening-wear was always evident.
We were never allowed in my parents’ room if my folks weren’t home, so of course, that was an open invitation to enter and explore whenever they were out for the night. That lingering stench of Obsession hung like old lady drapery everywhere in the room. On a particular night after I’d spent the evening watching horrible, violent, forbidden movies with my sisters, I snuck into our folks’ bedroom to search for a bound collection of letters my mother and father had amassed from an old colleague of my dad’s, a man who’d mysteriously wound up in a mental hospital due to something he’d revealed about a scandal happening at my father’s work. I’d seen the pile, tied with a ribbon, once on their bed and had asked about it. My mother had been deliberately vague in her answer; the idea was to keep us girls completely out of the picture, in the dark. It was big. It was serious. It caused all kinds of problems for all kinds of higher ups. That’s all I knew. Anyway, I couldn’t find the letters anywhere, so I did what any idle teenaged girl would do when rifling through her parents’ stuff…I got distracted by All The Pretty Stuff, including the perfume…the only bottle of perfume there. Stupid me, I dabbed a little on my wrists, then a little behind my ears, then a little on my neck.
That stench clung to me for days. Of course, I got in trouble. After all, it wasn’t all that difficult to tell that one of us had been in the forbidden zone of my parents’ room.
So, whenever I catch a whiff of Obsession on some dame, somewhere, I think back to my mother and father’s evenings out…I think about answers to a scandal that may never be revealed, ever…and I cringe a little inside at the thought of my oh-so-obvious foolishness back then.
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Smell You Later.”