The bottle of perfume was black and stood squarely on most surfaces. Although sturdy if undisturbed, the bottle was thin in stature, and could be knocked over with relative ease. To spill a bottle of perfume had never been a concern of our main character; it had never been a worry; it had never even occurred to him that such a fate could befall his beloved bottle of fragrance. What's more, when considering the most horrific substance to spill, one would most certainly avoid the idea of perfume. In fact, to most, the thought of spilt perfume is not a scary one - to most, such an aromatic spill, such a sweet smelling mistake could be considered the most kingly, pleasing of spills. However, it is unfair to mercilessly cage all people behind these most general of bars. Especially, considering the magnificent reeling powers with which odors work. Just as a hook and line can reel a fish to the surface from the darkest depths of the ocean, so, too, can an odor reel an emotion from the most forgotten, hidden corners of a man's heart.
Now, it is not my intention to take you down a road where barbecued, smoked ribs have resurrected feelings of camaraderie, or fluffed fumes of fresh baguettes have transported tamed men back to foreign adventures long forgotten, or even to a place where memory lanes are lined with the stench of your mother's goddamn brownies - beautiful as she may be. Rather, my intentions are coated with a specificity of a much stickier complexion; a specificity of a much deeper conviction.
Our main character's name is unimportant, and I fear the mere mention of his name might take away from the marrow that fills this story. I will keep his anonymity intact.
The weekend had been lived hard and fast, to a level much higher and more physical than anyone had anticipated. Although the times were spent joyously, and not a single soul regretted a single thing, that very Sunday, for all involved, proved to be a very trying, vulnerable time. Between the many raucous participants, it was the most tearful day any of them had ever shared. Spent separately, of course, none had any idea such a time, nor such distress, was being shared - the tragedy of ignorance was spread across the table in a very different way. Not a one could have known that their tears, mixed together, could have filled a large, orange, industrial bucket - the kind one finds quite easily at a hardware store.
It happened suddenly, hitting our main character at a moment when he was bitterly unprepared. Classically accidental, the bottle of fragrance teetered, and then fell to the tiled floor of his bathroom. The corner of the bottle separated cleanly, its contents oozing out over the floor, a stray towel, and his bare feet. The result was an oily mess, but the slipperiness of the situation was hardly at the forefront of what troubled our very vulnerable main character. To understand the effect of the spill, one would have to understand the history of the odor - to whom it had belonged.
She used to dance. She used to twirl. She used to glide. She used to jump. She used to point her toes and flex her legs and glitter across ballrooms on the tips of her toes. Her arms were toned and strong, yet graceful and loose. Her every movement caused men to swoon. Our main character, the first time he saw her, knew he loved her. She was a ballerina.
It was early in the morning when she died - and not the physical death where one's heart stops beating, breath stops flowing, body stops warming. This was a death marked by a memory. This death was shed by the blade of absence, the knife of disappearance, the rifle of betrayal. She had rested her head on the pillow next to him, she had slept in the crevice of his body, she had kissed his neck - in the morning, she told him the truth. She loved dance more than she loved him. To Moscow, where balletic dreams were made.
The only thing she had left was her smell, her fragrance - the black bottle of memories. It had haunted our main character as liquor haunts an alcoholic. His sanity depended on the odor; like an addict, he craved it; like a widower, he mourned for far too long. I remember the call.
"It's gone. I spilled it all."
"The perfume...it's everywhere. My entire house smells like her. It's done, I have no choice but to burn it. Burn it all."
"You're going to burn your house down?"
"What else can I do? This is the only way. I'm dying. I'm slowly dying with each breath. This perfume; her perfume is killing me. I'll never get it out. The house is ruined. She's ruined me"
"You should do it. It sounds like the only logical thing to do."
"I know, I know. You're dying, but how about we go grab a drink and see what happens. I'll call someone and they'll come clean it up. You'd be surprised what you can get out."
"And just let the smell float away...let her float away...her memory gone just like that. Her smell erased from my life. I'll die without her smell."
"So you'll die with the smell and without the smell?"
"Yes, don't you see? Without her perfume, without that bottle, she will slowly be erased from my memory. Little by little, I'll forget everything...I can't bear it."
"I'm coming to pick you up. We're going to get drunk. I won't call the cleaning people - we just need to drink."
"You swear you won't call them?"
"Okay. I'm dying."
I took our main character away from the scent - it was the only way. We were gone for five hours, and in that time, mops, brooms, buckets, suds, soaps, sprays, towels, and sponges were deployed. The smell had been eradicated. Her memory had been buried. His life had been saved - I like to think I had played a part in it, but the spill was what really did it. Had he not spilled that bottle of fragrance, his fate would have been much different. His path muddied by the past, until it was too late.
It was a spill that saved this man.