By Brenda Verbeck
The ability of a scent to stir a memory is an amazing thing. And it can be an immediate trigger for evoking the feelings associated with an event.
I have never used Coty’s Emeraude, but having been the victim of overzealous perfume sales people in stores like Bloomingdale’s I’ve been hit with it from time to time. Actually, it’s an indelible imprint in my brain, as well as on my olfactory equipment.
When I was a teenager, I spent summers at my aunt’s bungalow colony in Rock Hill, New York. It was adjacent to another small town called Glen Wild and I became part of a small group made up of locals and a few of us who were summer kids. The local boys had cars or trucks and it was great fun to go driving around the country roads in the evenings.
On this particular evening, when I was probably around 13 or so, we passed an accident. Clearly it had just happened. The car was off to the side of the road at a crazy angle. The people in the car, I think there were four of them, were lying helter skelter.
We backed up and got out of the cars, running to see if they needed help. They did. This was on a pretty much deserted back road, not close to any homes and remember, this was around 1949 – well before cell phones were even a concept
I could see that one of the men was bleeding from his ear. Having had a course in first aid as part of my high school curriculum I knew that it meant that he had a fractured skull. The others seemed mostly dazed though there may have been bruising, contusions, what have you. But we had no idea. We were just a bunch of kids wanting to do the right thing.
So we somehow got them into our cars and drove them to Monticello Hospital. The one woman was in the same car I was in and she absolutely reeked of a strong perfume. Never one for strong perfumes, which tend to give me a headache, I felt engulfed, trapped by this overwhelming aroma. And I also felt very sad. I was worried about the man with a probable skull fracture and I also felt very helpless.
We had no idea what happened to them after we dropped them off at the emergency entrance, but that scent stayed on my clothes for days, and in my nostrils forever. I identified the scent on one of my forays through a department store soon after that, probably Namms in downtown Brooklyn.Wherever I am and someone is wearing it, my nose knows, and it evokes an immediate response of sadness.
Fortunately, few people today, at least in the world I inhabit, wear scents out of respect for the many who have allergies, and lighter scents, generally, seem to have become more popular; so it has not assailed me for a long time, but I know that one whiff of Emeraude puts me on a dark country road, feeling sad and helpless. Funny that.
[EDITORIAL NOTE: Reader's stories are welcome. If you have not published here or not recently, please read submission instructions. Only one story per email.]