Rationalizing that it was long overdue interest on my non-interest-bearing checking account, I set off for the post office, where I was about to receive even longer overdue interest.
An attractive woman in line directly behind me complimented me on my cologne. I thanked her. I wasn’t wearing any. The cell phone babbler in front of me was. I took advantage of another guy’s smell. Ol”fact”ory deception… under the guise of male, if not mail, fraud.
My one recourse was to hope my sense of humor and wit would trump or at least complement his scents of lavender and jasmine. To the degree she’d give me her phone number before he was called to a window, and all she’d smell was a poseur.
Post office lines have an annoying habit of moving quickly when you don’t want them to; so I had to work fast, carefully ensconced behind my aromatic buddy. While she remained under the power of this unknowing accomplice, I closed the deal in time for two windows to open up, mercifully allowing me to disappear in conjunction with his dissipating bouquet.
I thought about waiting outside for him. But what would I say?
“Pardon me. What’s that cologne you’re wearing?”
“Excuse me. A hot babe likes the way you smell and I’m trying to reap all the benefits.”
I decided to avoid a sock in the jaw or the guy’s phone number, and smell-test colognes that matched the memory of his scent. This was a challenging task, considering how off-putting it was trying to conjure up a guy’s smell. And what about the quantity? Too little, what’s the point? Too much, I’ll smell like Burt Reynolds in Boogie Nights.
Maybe this guy had used too much. If it wafted past me all the way to her nostrils, it might have overpowered her had she been directly behind him. I could have been an all-important buffer. In effect, he needed my services to entice women as much as I needed his. I now felt less guilty using him.
And what about location, location, location? The neck? The wrists? The ears? All three? Make that, five? Maybe it didn’t matter. The only way I would win over this lady’s most primitive sense was by replicating the guy’s DNA. Cologne may smell alike, but in conjunction with one’s body chemistry, it transforms into a personal stamp of, one hopes, approval. Here was hoping that my DNA… and Tuscany… was the stamp that couldn’t be licked.
Seated and scented at Starbucks, I sensed in her a lack of energy – and this was with caffeine racing through her veins.
Did she smell me? Did she not like what she smelled? Had I been too conservative? Did she not smell me? Did she not like what she did not smell? I flunked chemistry in high school. Was I flunking body chemistry now?
We shared our history, such as it was:
“Did you mail off that letter okay?” I asked.
“Yeah,” she replied.
“Great. So did I,” I responded.
“Good,” she answered.
“It’s amazing. You can send a letter across the street. Or across the country. Same price,” I noted.
“Huh,” she noted.
“You send a person across the street, or across the country… Different price,” I reasoned.
“Huh,” she noted.
I must have looked as bored as she was, because I stretched a lot – with fingers clasped together and delicately scented wrists zeroing in on that turned up nose of hers.
Our coffee date ended. We exchanged pleasantries that were code for two distressed ships passing into the night. But I still couldn’t let go of the fact our “relationship” had begun on an intimate note: “I like your cologne.” I’d conquered one of her senses from the get-go, whether or not technically I was the conqueror.
At least she’d experienced no disconnect imagining I’d smelled good. Would her brain have allowed her to compliment Quasimoto’s smell if he’d been hunched in my place? Presuming he didn’t bring his own smell into the equation? My hunch: no.
After further reflection, what it really came down to was this: The Orson Welles syndrome. I peaked too early! Our post office encounter was my Citizen Kane.
Even if our less than magnificent Starbucks encounter had turned into The Magnificent Ambersons, she would have been disappointed. And before you know it, it could have spiraled down to an acting gig in The Muppet Movie. Yes, Mr. Welles wound up sharing the big screen with Miss Piggy. A very big screen.
My ultimate challenge, however dicey, was to raise the bar the next time, and make that date an even more impossible act to follow. Our post office date was now The Godfather. The next date… would have to be The Godfather II.
I waited a week and called her. Her “Hi!” had a discernible lift compared to her initial “Hello” – a hopeful sign that she might have missed me. Or him. I took what I could get, and wound up wining and dining her at a restaurant of her choice – Indian.
Our conversation began to flow as freely as the wine. She even touched my arm when she talked! The caffeine had obviously made us jittery before; this time, there was hardly a lag in the conversation.
I told her – I like cinnamon cookies.
She told me – she does too!
She said lots of foods actually taste better cinnamony.
I said – Sounds like a British wedding: “The cinnamony… was lovely!”
She laughed too!
Then I said, “Speaking of cookies, how come stale hard cookies get soft? And stale soft cookies get hard?
She laughed too! … I had indeed raised the bar!
But one thought gnawed at me as she alone happily breathed in the aroma of curry and cauliflower and asked, “Doesn’t this smell good?”
Her original appraisal of him-slash-me could have been full of it too.