Annick Goutal, Songes

A woman spends the evening of her thirtieth birthday sitting on the back porch with a glass of red wine in her hand. Stirred by a breeze she can barely feel, a heavy bough from the neighbor's frangipani tree sways over the fence, its bluish-white blossoms floating against a background of rustling leaves. Their heady scent with its barely persceptible rankness takes her breath away for a moment; then the warm air settles around her again and only a faint thick sweetness remains. The deck chair sends up a metallic tang along with a rhythmic creak; she must have been bobbing her foot restlessly for some time now.

She takes a sip of the cabernet and feels its bitter fur mellowing to a vanillic softness around her tongue. There was a time when she professed not to abide the scent of fresh flowers, but those too-clever days are mostly in the past. The greyish-green of the trees is becoming indistinguishable from the greyish-brown of the wood fence, and soon she won't be able to see the frangipani tree, just smell it, along with those night-blooming white flowers that line the driveway.

Her kitchen light is starting to feel warm on her back, and she enjoys wanting to stay out and go in at the same time. But whatever used to seem mysterious to her about the dusk is now just another part of her, and she doesn't need to be outside to feel it. The wine glass clinks against the chair as she rises to go in.


Annike Goutal, Duel

She's got a date with the queen of the rodeo, but after pitching hay and herding cattle all day, there are grass stains on her jeans, divots caked in her boots, and sweat in her hat. Musty-sweet horse-smell has penetrated her clothes right down to her longjohns, and her shirt...well, she should change her shirt.

But she cleans up real nice, and the sharp, caustic soap she uses will lather it up and pull it all down, slipping like a bride's silken chemise down her back, down her legs, and pooling at her small, rough toes at it swirls down, down the shower drain, leaving her with a sharp, hybrid aura - clean and dirt, soap and the faintest glow of grassy sweat, a soft, spicy incense no bath can banish. The aroma subsides into a deep green fog as she towels off, like the distant, transparent mountains on a summer evening.

Curls in place, smile bright, belt, hat, boots, and she's off to sip raspberry phosphates with the prettiest queen in the West.


Hammer Pants

You wore the shit out of them in 4th grade; they were the kind with the flaps that buttoned together in the front, and you would run around the playground, flapping like a penguin. Color wasn't as important to you then, and that drab navy floral in cheap jersey, faded to a dull fuzz from multiple washes, was enough to fuel your pterodactyl fantasies as you tore frantically around the schoolyard.

Now, the intimidating "new volume" that has been mercilessly thrusting bubble skirts and waistless frocks at your short ass for 5 or 6 seasons now, is finally doing you a favor with harem pants that billow, bloom, and peg in that pleasant, moony crescent you loved so much. Some even have those front flaps.

I prefer a fabric with a bit of structure - silk taffeta or fine, starched cotton. However, I've seen cotton jersey employed to lovely effect. Now my short ass needn't fear peeking up out of those damn slim-fit jeans.
Thank God.

L'Artisan Parfumeur Mure et Musc

When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade, dammit. So the pie crust was a total disaster, and there's flour and sugar everywhere, and the cat licked the bejeezus out of that stick of butter. You still have a bowl of fresh, ripe blackberries, and no one can take that away from you. It's not that you're naive, or in wilful denial, or that you don't appreciate the complexity of more exotic desserts. You're just tough as nails, and you haven't got patience for regret. Who could really begrudge you that stalwart optimism to which you've pledged yourself, come hell or high water? Who could dislike the eagerness and flexibility that takes you from day to night in a split second flat because you didn't realize it had gotten dark outside? Some big jerk, that's who, and he'd be wrong anyway. Well, maybe you're in a little bit of wilful denial. But dammit, a little of that is probably healthy.


Issey Miyake L'Eau d'Issey

The new librarian in the rare books collection recommends the Ellesmere Canterbury Tales to all new visitors; It's a one-of-a-kind, handwritten by medieval clerics, etc, and it's one of the oldest books in the library. But her favorite edition is actually by the Kelmscott Press. It's a Nouveau fantasy: all twisting branches and plentiful draping. A bright floral heightened by a touch of lemon zest, tamped down by centuries of creeping moss and thick roots, finally yellowed to a fine, acrid glow, wafting off the page.

The art of aging beautifully, she muses, is all in one's demeanor. Retain a bearing of monastic elegance and you can never go wrong... even if it means tightly confining those fructiferous tendrils of flora to the unyielding grains of a woodblock. But wood does yield, and that warm, oak edge left a print that softly combines the best of the wilderness and the worktable, together, in love, at last.

Hanae Mori Magical Moon

Two girls are dancing by a bonfire under a full moon to the jingle of tambourines and the light smacking of drums. The taller girl has a bright young smell, litchee as sharp as a newly-minted penny and sweet coconut milk. As her long skirt swishes around her calves, she gazes longingly at her more experienced friend, a voluptuous hippie in a wench costume men will be dreaming about tonight, swaying slowly back and forth in a cloud of patchouli and sandalwood. If only men looked at her like that.

Just as she is getting tired of it, someone taps her on the shoulder. She turns around to behold a long-haired, gangly youth in a doublet. He kneels and offers her a rose. "For the mistress of my heart." She takes the rose, but she's glad she can't see him too well in the firelight - he's probably just that guy from the dorm who plays World of Warcraft all day long.

She lies in her sleeping bag that night, peering into the dark blue vial of oil she borrowed from her friend. It's dank and dirty but a hint of soapy white musk lies at the bottom like a jovial wink. The fire has died and a sweet smell of burning leaves is curling up toward the moon. She can just barely smell the rose wilting where she dropped it outside the tent. Sigh. No matter what she does or who she sleeps with, she is always going to have that little milky white heart that smells like innocence, for better or for worse.

She rolls over and goes to sleep with vanilla on her mind.


Max Mara le Parfum

A tomboy on her wedding day. Today of all days in her life she's determined to do the girly thing, but as with many of her experiments, she may have overdone it. An invigorating burst of pink pepper fades to reveal optimistic lime (it's a summer wedding) and nutmeg, like coltish limbs akimbo under poofy pink tulle. Giddy with excitement and a little scared, she can't stop looking at her image in the mirror and marveling that it's really her. In fact, by the end of the day, she'll have a headache from pink champagne and will relish scrubbing off the makeup. Back to Eau d'Issey for an active honeymoon, thank God, and they might not keep the wedding pictures on the mantle. They're beautiful but a little too much.