Olfactory Memories From the Bedroom
They all had their scents, each one of them. I was close enough to their bodies to observe and catalog them.
See, there was this guy Peter, my first intimate encounter. He was unapproachable in his tidiness and if he was untidy he was very much unapproachable, or so he made it. When I had stripped away all of the clothes and began to explore his features, I noticed first the musk that most men carry. It’s the blending sweat into his skin and hair. Not that he was sweating, but there’s always an echo of it. Behind all of that I caught a mixture of manufactured lotions on the surface of his skin. Even on his inner thigh I could detect traces of Curél. The aroma was subtle, but distinct. He wore them proudly as a testament of his cleanliness.
Then I met Thomas. He was draped in the comforting scent of laundry detergent. Even when his body was entirely disrobed, every hair and pore remained fragrant with it. We had sex on the first date. I slid his pants and briefs off. I inhaled and his soft skin was like fresh hung linens waving in the wind. Later in the relationship he would prep for our sexual trysts with his favorite body wash, supplementing the smell of fresh linens. He would apply it scrupulously to all of his secret parts, making them comfortable to discover.
Trevor came next. Trevor was a cook. He used fresh herbs religiously. And when we had sex, hints of basil and thyme popped out. Soaps and detergents weren’t the star fragrance on Trevor’s body. I would press my fingers into his skin in a fit of excitement. The echo of something leafy would spring out but then quickly fade. The scent of spices weren’t overwhelming. His food wasn’t dressed in cumin, coriander, or curry. It was more subtle than that.
Brian was a pile of man with thick limbs and a wide smile. He had the appearance of someone who would be riddled with a musky smell from every corner of his strong body. I remember the first time I tore into his clothes. I did the same thing I always do after I have a guy naked before me: I hovered above his skin and took a deep breath and surveyed his aroma. Brian’s inner thighs smelled like a line-up of high end body wash. The botanical extracts of lavender, bamboo, and mint clung close to his pores. It was no surprise that he smelled that clean. He kept his facial hair trimmed with geometric precision. He never let his hair fall out of place. The evidence of his stylistic odor was stacked neatly into the corner of his shower. I scanned the bottles, wide-eyed, as he rubbed a bar of lavender soap up and down my back. Then he took an unnamed bottle of shampoo and placed a dollop on the crown of my head. He lathered it up and caressed it through my hair. The smell mingled with the drops of water. And when we climbed back into his bed, our bodies smelled like a well manicured garden.
This brings us to Jake. Jake was a one-night whirlwind encounter. There was nothing memorable about his performance. He stands out primarily because of his smell. He had this viral aroma, rushing to attack every surface at hand. I smelled it on him, every time he shifted, and when we reached his hotel room it seemed as if it was the only odor I ever knew. We chatted for a moment. He went into a story about his profession, and I took the opportunity to try and label what I was sensing. There are places that strive to be free from fragrances. That attempt at perfect sterility seems to cause a scent all of its own. Jake had that very particular scent; that smell of a hospital. Add to that the stale coffee he had just drunk and he had the air of a hospital waiting room, where anxiety squelches hope and a person’s time is forfeited.
It’s easy to just pass by the scents of lovers. But the memory of each is forged into my mind. I remember the playful joy of my time with Thomas when I smell laundry detergent. I smile at the strength of Brian’s embrace when I shop for body wash. And when I’m in a hospital I shake my head remembering Jake.