Sondra Primeaux / The Unruffled
The first day of January found me climbing 1000 feet up the largest pink granite rock in the U.S.
It was a climb worthy of a Day 1, Instagrammed for posterity. On the way down and as the ground evened, my leg muscles resembling the up down of a sewing machine, I passed a flock of four 20ish year old women. They had diamond studs and flat-ironed hair and they smelled like Pantene and boobs. And then it hit me so hard that it almost punched the breath out of me: I'll never smell like that again.
Seven years ago, to celebrate my milestone 40th,
I left the fleeting sweet smells of my six month old baby behind and hit the town. Dinner at my favorite restaurant was just for show, as it did nothing to slow down the steady knocking back of margaritas, followed by shots, followed by wine, followed by blackout. Waking up in places other than your own bed when there is no plan otherwise never gets any less shocking. I had to make the call of shame to home, pre-smartphone, so my husband could use the Google to locate my whereabouts and secure me a cab. I remember walking in the house and immediately combating my shame with total righteous indignation, yes, I deserved a night out. I jumped in the shower before I could even nuzzle that sweet sixth month old neck because that was a smell that I did not deserve.
If we could bottle up these smells, would we? Inhaling those bottles of smells would only remind us of the passage of time. And all we are left with is the smell, and sadness. Just like our reliable break-up albums, sleeved in melancholy, certain smells always deliver the exact emotion they are meant to evoke. And there we want to stew and writhe in the bittersweetness of time we can't recover.
A college boyfriend that I had for 3 months to the day would pull up to my apartment on his motorcycle,
every one of those 90 days smelling like wind and Drakkar Noir. I would nearly chase him down the driveway, not wanting to let go the last bits as they uncurled around my nose. I could have inhaled that until the end of time, like it was the only breath I'd ever need to take. And when he didn't show up on my doorstep on the 91st day or anytime thereafter, I didn't miss him but my God, I missed that smell. After that, I would abjectly torture myself in every department store and a stroll through the fratboy section of the quad would utterly wreck me. I needed it like I needed my right hand.
The last job I held in the service industry was bartending at a rarely busy place on the outskirts of the action.
The clientele were the type that liked a slower pace, a smaller pond. Dan was the most charming 70 year old that I'd had the pleasure of getting to know. I could feel that the adoration was mutual. I would match him drink for drink, even though my glass was tucked away, hidden from management's eyes. I'm pretty sure I got more adorable with every sip. I'm sure the smell I emanated was a mixture of wine, amber and patchouli, a smell I'd hung on to since my twirling Grateful Dead days. I wonder if that did something for Dan, if it took him back to a moment when he had more hair and less sun spots. He'd sip his wine and smile that gap-toothed smile like he had jumped straight out of a Bogart film. As I was a 40-something bartender, desperately trying to hang on to the vestiges of a story that had always worked from me, I was no Bergman. But I was a woman about to change her story. I've recovered a life, and it smells pretty good.
Sondra would describe herself in one loaded word: multi-passionate. She's passionate about family, sewing, photography, writing and recovery (since July 13, 2014!). She's currently working on a website that is dedicated to just that, pursuing creativity in recovery. Follow along at The Unruffled