Have I told you about the time

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  • Scent Sketches

                Remember when I started this blog, I said I worked at a chain bookstore? Well, I don’t work there anymore. Now I work at a store that sells soaps and lotions and perfumes. This is alright, because my favorite art form in the world is the naming and describing of scents and tastes. Masterpieces in this genre include cocktail descriptions in American Chinese restaurants, the packaging and marketing of Old Spice deodorants, and this Tumblr saga about a Yankee Candle scent.

                So I’ve decided to make scent and taste description my new career, and I’ve begun practicing on the products in the store where I work.

                We carry a soap by Mistral that is called Apple Blossom. I think that Apple Blossom should be renamed. There is no blossom in its scent; it is all fruit. It’s the sweet snap of the stem when you twist the apple off the branch. It’s the tender crunch of the skin breaking as you take your first bite. It’s the ripe, tart flesh of the apple itself. The blossom has nothing to do with it.

                Mistral also makes a holiday soap called Winter Pine. It’s piney, and it’s wintery, but it’s not a pine tree covered in snow. It’s the inside of a cabin, with a fire crackling and popping and a hot mug of milky, cinnamon-y tea waiting for you. It’s coziness and comfort and company.

                Speaking of winter, it’s not a scent and it’s not at the store where I work, but the tapas place around the corner makes a cocktail called Winter Thaw that is very aptly named. It tastes like coming inside from being out in the snow for hours and taking off your wet socks and stepping into a warm bathtub. A heat that hurts only because of the contrast, that feels good down to your bones.

                Back at work, Crabtree and Evelyn has a scent called Evelyn Rose that is also perfectly named. It smells like Evelyn’s Roses. Evelyn is ninety one years old, but her hair has never once been gray. She keeps it as blonde as it was when she was twenty. She’s been wearing the same scent since then, too. It was a gift from your grandfather after Evelyn had her first child, your mother, and she hasn’t switched since. She also always wears the same lipstick color, which is called Perfect Peony. The color was too light on you when you tried it on, made it look like you had no lips, but Evelyn is pale enough that it looks good on her, and when she kisses you, the color she leaves behind on your cheek looks like a perfect blush. She gave you a bottle of her scent on your eighteenth birthday, and you never wear it, but you spray it in your room or on your pillow when you miss her.

                And then there’s my favorite scent in the entire store, a potpourri by Herb Lady that is called Gentleman’s Blend. The name tells you absolutely nothing about this scent. It is complex and layered, both sweet and savory at once, but not the kind of sweet or savory that you want to eat. There’s a bit of pine in it, but not like Winter Pine: more like, early fall, and the bearded man you’ve happily called your husband for the past four years just spent the day collecting and chopping pine wood to stock up for the winter, but the sun was hot today and he was sweating, so he splashed himself with the rosewater you’ve been steeping since the spring. And then he went into the kitchen, where you’ve got lavender and other herbs hung up to dry in the rafters, and he baked your Grandma Evelyn’s famous sugar cookies. And it’s a Friday afternoon and you just got home from work and he’s greeting you at the door with a hug and a cookie and memories of springtime and promises of a warmth that will last all winter long.

                So far I haven’t had any luck coming up with new names for the scents that I think deserve better ones, but maybe if I sleep on it, they’ll come to me.