I am in Seville, standing under a bitter orange tree in full bloom in the arms of Román, the black-clad Spanish boy who is not yet my lover. Since sundown, we’ve been watching the religious brotherhoods in their pointed caps and habits thread their way across the old Moorish town in the wake of gilded wood floats bearing statues of Christ and the Virgin Mary. This is the Madrugada, the longest night of Holy Week, and the whole city has poured into the streets: the processions will go on until the dawn sky is streaked with hunting swallows. In the tiny white-washed plaza in front of the church, wafts of lavender cologne rise from the tightly pressed bodies. As altar boys swing their censers, throat-stinging clouds of sizzling resins – humanity’s millennia-old message to the gods – cut through the fatty honeyed smell of the penitents’ beeswax candles.
And from that one recollection--a beautiful young man, the scent of orange trees, and some other mingling, Spanish aromas--was born a collaboration which eventually resulted in a new perfume. Beaulieu also wrote a book about the original memory and the making of Seville a L'Aube, The Perfumer Lover: A Personal History of Scent, to be released in March 2013. I haven't yet read the book; so, I can't speak to its literary merits. But, I certainly am entertained by the idea of a collaboration between a writer and perfumer, two kinds of narrative approach merging in the one aromatic text of the eau de parfum. The making of Seville a L'Aube makes me wonder what literary contribution I might make to the narrative of fragrance.
Having sworn off of blind buys (no more purchases of perfumes unsmelled and untested, dammit!), I ordered a small sample of Seville a L'Aube, along with five or six other scents. Of all the little vials, I didn't expect this one to be the winner in the bunch. The first time I rubbed the tester wand on my wrists, I only smelled a bright green citrus, an irritating bitterness. But, a little while later, I found myself sniffing and sniffing the sudden blast of orange blossom, the dirt of jasmine, and orange blossom again. When I reapplied the perfume the second day, I suddenly discovered that green opening was delicious not awful. Even my husband, who usually responds to my perfumes with something like that's nice or uhuh, pressed my wrist to his nose several times, agreeing that the scent was delicious. I order a full bottle on the third day.
I know that orange blossom isn't the same as mock orange, but when I breathe in Seville a L'Aube and consider its romantic beginnings, all I can think of is Louise Glück. In Glück's very great "Mock Orange," the poet undermines all of our tired, complacent rhetoric about longing and the commune of bodies. The subversive in me pairs Seville a L'Aube with "Mock Orange" because the scent is utterly sincere in its exploration of memory and the poem utterly sincere about the problem of sincerity. I find "Mock Orange" delicious, first because it gives in to the pull of sex, and then because it rejects that force. It rejects sex with a passion that resembles desire itself:
By Louise Glück