I have spent the day reading ‘Damage’, Josephine Hart’s intense, almost harrowing, potboiler about a wealthy, middle class family whose lives are on the verge, at the point that I am at in the novel, of being completely destroyed when the patriarch of the family, a respected doctor and politician, falls quite maniacally in love with his daughter’s fiancée. The two embark on a brutal, strange, but compellingly realistic affair that is all consuming and sadomasochistic (the storm – thunder and lightning that we have just had outside – it is now passing – has most certainly done nothing to detract from the bruising intensity of this book, which I am two thirds of the way through, and must finish by the end of the evening.) Things are building; suspicions are being voiced, and this is one denouement I definitely need to witness: it is building up, unravelling, all rather beautifully.
I reach out for perfume. I have been tired this week, very – the first week back at work, and could hardly move today. Duncan is with me in the room, we have been in here all day just listening to old compilations in the background while he types away on the computer, the cat in and out, competing for his affections, the sunshine turning to heavy rain. When reading, I love to also survey my collection, see those gorgeous perfumes in their beautiful boxes – their unvoiced pleasures; the dense, scented liquids that await me like museum treasures from an olfactory palace : rich, exterior comforts. I reach out, instinctively, for Rochas Femme, a vintage eau de toilette : it seems in keeping reading this story of a dark, and secretive woman who has a father and son both in her thrall; damaged, deeply, by an incestuous secret in her past, but so vital and essential for them both that she is pulling these people, the whole family, deep into a black, erotic vortex of something bleak, destructive, and inescapable.
Femme does not smell like Anna Barton. This perfume is probably more suited to the doctor’s wife, the delicate, but forceful, Ingrid (though she would more likely wear Caleche). Yet it is so rounded, so fruited, so beautiful and spiced, so full of itself and generous : so much better than Mitsouko – its obvious inspiration – that I suddenly felt great pangs of regret.
There was once a woman at the flea market in Tokyo that I saw there only once. On that day, in one of the corners, she had a whole chest of vintage perfumes that she was getting rid of at quite ridiculous prices – I remember crouching down with other eager and scrabbling onlookers and panicking about what I should buy up. I know I bought quite a few of them, I can’t remember it all in detail, but I know that she had a whole stack of Femmes, and I though I contemplated buying them all up at the time, I refrained. I didn’t know how much I was going to like the stuff at the time, but tonight this perfume smells grand, gorgeous: deep, plush; refined. A soundtrack: sweepingly, damningly, erotic.