1980, and every tree I remember was a willow. Beneath the leafy, sunlit arched canopy, I’d turn backwards somersaults and break only to enter a game of Freeze Tag. The spiral fence that separated my yard from Carley’s was home base. The buttery yellow honeysuckles weaved through the fence fragrant and strong, and when the breeze blew through them they’d wave softly -- and I don’t ever remember a day that it rained. Honeysuckle was the scent and Blondie was the soundtrack to those days when my parents still lived in the same house and slept in the same bedroom. We knew every syllable of every song of both sides of Parallel Lines and when we’d perform a talent show on the porch, my sister won every time with the dance she had choreographed to 11:59, the dance I still remember every step of, and even at five years old I wanted to learn to snarl like Deborah Harry.
I began wearing perfume consistently in high school when I was a junior, and it was Calyx, a citrusy-strong spray that came in a lime green frosted bottle. I’d apply it directly to my wrists and behind my ears like I’d seen women do on television, the kind of female characters who would remove a single earring before answering the telephone. We’d loll around Annmarie’s bedroom, the gigantic poster of Madonna staring down at us from the wall, daring us, and we’d listen to The Sundays on repeat, and I wished I spoke with an accent like the lead singer. In cars we’d blast REM, the sunroof open, our hair blowing into our mouths, getting stuck to our lip gloss, the Greencassette was so worn that it sounded faded during You Are the Everything. And I wasn’t ready to fall in love yet -- and when I looked around at the contenders, I never would have guessed who the eventual boy would be. On the beach, lying on bright turquoise towels our mothers would wash later, we’d listen to Squeeze and we’d debate which guy was the cutest, but I wanted someone who also understood being lost and the beauty of searching with arms open, trying to clench the air that smelled less like honeysuckle every day.
I lost my virginity as the song Amanda Jones from the Some Kind of Wonderful soundtrack blared from the living room below, the wooden floors in my friend’s house rumbling along to the beat, the event over almost before it began, Chris’ eyes closed most of the time so he didn’t see the smoky grey eyeliner I’d just learned to properly apply, but he probably smelled my spicy Guess perfume when his face was burrowed against my neck.
CK One. It was unisex and it was light and smelled of verbena and I’d spray it into the air and walk through the scented cloud where I came out the other side, confident and in love with someone new. We’d drive country roads near the camp where we counselors and listen to Black on the cd player in his bold, red jeep, and I realized in the moment how resilient the heart could be because Pearl Jam didn’t remind me of Chris anymore, and my dimples would indent hard as Eddie Vedder sang in the most growly and masculine voice I’d heard in a long while.
And Estee Lauder’s Beautiful.
And Design, which really only smelled good on my sister.
And back to the musky Guess, which stained my shirts with its orange spray.
And Ani DiFranco and Led Zeppelin and Foo Fighters and Green Day and always Bruce and the 80s station on XM Radio presided over by the living MTV V-Jays, playing Poison and Motley Crue, bringing me back to my middle school pseudo-metal phase with a thud, every lyric reminding me of the corresponding video image that my father had said would destroy the sanctity of music.
And now it’s Tom Ford Black Orchid. The bottle is sleek and it’s black and it’s an amalgam of scents I can’t seem to pinpoint, but I think I smell orange and maybe some light patchouli, and I spray it directly on my skin without holding back while Fiona Apple speaks to my soul in the distance.