I’ve always enjoyed smelling people as they walk by, generally inside modes of transportation. Tight spaces, forced hallways. On trains, buses, planes. I inhale the waft of themselves they leave behind, the layers of their days. Their mornings, their showers, their indiscretions.
I generally like the smell of women more. When an intriguing woman walks by, I make my nostrils sive-like to distill her smell and form an opinion about her. Not so much men, women are the ones, licking at my nose, apple sweet.
There was a Scorpio man I was in love with who was not in love with me, which at those times of my life was the only kind of man I could love.
I could smell him before he came into a room or after he left it. I don’t mean his cologne; I mean him. His being, his incense. His life, what he showered with, what he shaved with, what he left on him from where he’d just been. I loved it. I loved feeling so in tune with him, using a sense we hardly ever use to recognize someone. It made me feel poetic at a time when I used my writing very little.
Once I was walking down the hallway to my office and I smelled him. It always made my heart gymnastic; I went in, blood cooling after the swell. He wasn’t there.
Then I said, out loud, “I could have sworn he was here...”
And out he popped from under a desk. Hiding. Found.
“Hi Amy!” he said. I was embarrassed. He was not supposed to know I knew his smell. That I could track him. It meant I studied him too much. It meant countless things he already knew, that I just wanted to stop proving.
People are like that. They say they want to be known, but they don’t really want to be known. They want to know, but they don't really want to know. Everyone wants a cliff, a stunning view, a palpability but a mist, too, a part that is untouchable. A foam, a snow globe.
Two years later I was on a plane with another man, another Scorpio I’d known for eight years. He had just woken up from a useless Plane Nap and he immediately leaned over and sniffed me. Really sniffed me, staccato-like but lung-deep, like he was breathing in something vital. Like he was trying to break a boundary because he knew I could not put walls on my scent, despite wherever else I put them.
What is this need to inhale someone? Isn’t being inside of one human body enough?