A walk down olfactory lane

My first roommate in college was from Puerto Rico. She was as wordly and sophisticated as I was callow and naive. Early on in our time together, she was aloof, sitting on her bed smoking or twining her auburn hair around the top of her head so it would fall in Veronica-Lake-like waves around her face come morning.

I'm not sure when the thaw occurred. Maybe when she overheard a call during which I told my new beau, who had insulted me cruelly and unthinkingly, to take his amorous attentions in a new direction that she decided I wasn't so dull. When I got off the phone, shaking with rage, she exhaled a plume of smoke and said, knowingly, "Ach, he was a hick in the city (pronounced heek-in-da-seedy.)"

We laughed about that for years.

From her home in San Juan, she occasionally brought me gifts. Cuban and Puerto Rican women scent their babies, and in the warmer months, Beatriz wore Nenuco, a clean, lemony cologne, the Spanish equivalent of Love's Baby Soft. I adored it and she kept me suppplied for years.

I've purchased similar products in Little Havana, but have never been able to find Nenuco. But the Internet provides. Feeling nostalgic recently, I typed the name of the cologne into Amazon, and Amazon being the source of all things, it revealed the entire range.

The lotion is Goretti's fault. We became friends as RAs, sharing emotional, passionate natures and the same clothing size. The winter of our junior year, she landed a date with a guy everyone in our set--especially me--was mad for. It was hard to begrudge her this adventure, Goretti was so direct and dear and earnest. When she asked to borrow my silk evening bag, I joked, "At least my bag gets to go out with him!"

No doubt she slatered herself with the lotion pictured above before their date. I'm not sure whether I caught it lingering on a sweater I borrowed from her or once when we exchanged hugs, but I loved this scent, even more than the gentleman in question.

Alyssa Ashley Musk Hand and Body Lotion, she told me. So cheap. And so heady! These days though I take issue with the mineral oil and parabens it contains, I still can't resist ordering a bottle from time to time.

Smells hold so much memory, don't they? A whiff of these drug store scents can take me back to that dingy dormitory in a second, to those deep friendships, a time when everything held great portent and our hearts were untutored and open and bare.

Comments (1) -

March 18. 2011 04:50


My first (and still favorite) perfume was Shalimar, and I always have a bottle and wear it at least once a week. Years ago I happened to be wearing it when visiting in-laws. My brother-in-law caught a whiff of it and immediately recognized it. Turns out it was the only scent his grandmother ever wore and it was fun to see all the memories rushing back for him!

Wendy |

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