Saturday, August 14, 2010

Scents And Sensibilities

I would sniff you if I thought I could get away with it.

I'd sniff your hair.  I'd sniff the sleeve of your shirt. I'd sniff your hands. If your shoes are leather, I'd sniff them, too.

These wouldn't be long sniffs- the kind with the sniffer's eyes closed and the sniffee feeling a bit violated. No. My sniffs would be short and only two (possible three) in rapid succession. Just enough for me to take in information.

I'd note what kind of detergent you use for your clothes. I'd know if you smoked and roughly the last time you lit up. If you chopped onions in the past 24 hours, I'd know this, too. I could detect your brand of shampoo and smell the cologne or perfume you wore the night before.

I've always been a sniffer, and after sight, my sense of smell is the one that works the hardest to transmit information to my brain. My nose knows. I can see an expiration date printed on the milk carton, but after about three days, I grow suspect and rely solely on my sense of smell to detect any possibility of it going sour. Open fridge, grab milk, twist off pink cap, lift opening to nostrils, sniff once. Once is all it takes for milk.

The fouler I predict the odor to be, the more inclined I am to sniff it for affirmation. As in, "Whoah! These shoes are old. I bet they stink. I should probably get rid of them. Let me just sniff them firs- oh, god. Yes. Yes, those really stink." Other confirmed stinky things categorized as such due to my sniffing include a freshly used Q-tip, an earring backing, an ash tray after the ashes have been dumped out, a wet band aid, a nail file, and the lid of my travel mug.

Sometimes I'm surprised and find a pleasant scent where I least expect it. I love sniffing my dog's paws the way a mother tends to adore breathing in the smell of her newborn's head. My dog's paws are musty-sweet, and if I could make them into scratch-n-sniff stickers, I would. And I'd keep one on the back of my hand and scratch and sniff it at will throughout the day. Yum.

Cigarette smoke makes me sick. But mix that smell with a tad bit of cologne and leather and I'm sixteen again, waiting for my boyfriend to open up his jacket on a cool night so I can crawl in and cocoon myself in his collective scents.

Everything has a scent. Everything is sniffable. You probably already do some sniffing. 

Who doesn't love going outside after a downpour when everything has taken of its lid to let the scents escape? Here the pavement is hot and steamy and smells almost metallic. Here flowers which you've passed countless times before suddenly seem bursting with sweetness. Here your neighbor's dryer vent pumps out a crispy clean and you know instantly whether or not you use the same fabric softener as her.

Now come back inside with your nostrils flaring and searching for more. Let's play! I dare you to pick up something within reach and really give it a sniff. No need to explain what you're doing to the wife or roommate. Just give it a good, deep sniff. Start with something non-threatening. A bill envelope, maybe (deep sniff....smell the glue?) The outside of your highlighter (deep sniff....remind you of the Barbie you had as a child?) Your hands (deep sniff...vanilla soap) Your green leather wallet (deep unexpected. This smells exactly like your grandma's makeup case.) This is a bonus-sniff. A scent linked to something from years ago. Those are the best kind.

There's nothing dainty or envy-producing about my nose. It is neither a cute little button-nose nor a pretty little pointy thing ala Audrey Hepburn.  It's tubular, really, as if God took two rigatoni noodles, fused them together, and plopped them right in the center of my face. My nostrils are two perfect circles, which upon closer visual inspection is a little unsettling. They provide an open and straight pathways to my olfactory-factory. It's clear that this nose was made for sniffing.

And that's just what I'll do.

One of these days this nose is gonna sniff all over you.

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