I got an email the other day from a colleague I admire. She began the email this way:
I think you may have thought I was running away from you this morning
...because I was.
You're probably not aware of this (because I've never mentioned it to you before)...but there is a scent you sometimes use that I'm allergic to. It's much worse for me in the morning and I was afraid that if I stuck around, I'd cough and sneeze in [someone's] class, so I rushed off to avoid that . . .
When I read this letter and saw the word "scent", my immediate reaction was about body stink. With two teenage boys in the house, our family spends a heck of a lot of time managing BO. My knee-jerk reflex was to think I'd bombed out on the shower department. Ewww.
But then I realized the problem wasn't insufficient hygiene; in fact it was the opposite. The culprit was a bottle of perfume I'd bought several years ago. I was a perfume perpetrator.
But on the other hand, this particular bottle was a more than just a bottle. In the way that the things we own sometimes take on extra meaning and begin to own us, this particular perfume bottle had become a memory: a gleeful memory of finding it on sale at a super low price ($5, I think) and of buying enough for both me and my friend Kristie, a go-for-the-gusto friend of mine who passed away from cancer about 6 months after this particular perfume purchase. So this bottle of perfume was a symbol also of living life exuberantly, of honoring my long-lost Diva of a friend.
Which, honestly, is pretty silly. Because Kristie didn't want to make people sick; she wanted to make life a giant celebration of festivity. And in the back of my mind, I'd known that my perfume habit made me into a walking allergy attack for unknown strangers -- and now I even knew the names of one of my victims.
So, my morning routine has gotten one step shorter. The perfume is gone. Sorry, Charlie.