My mind and soul have been so eaten up with the election this last week that I almost forgot that my book ‘Profumo: Alla Ricerca Della Tua Fragranza’ comes out in Italy today.
I am excited: Rome runs deep in my blood after having lived there at the age of 21, and the thought of it being in all the Feltrinelli bookstores across the city; in the shop next to the Florence railway station, in its black and gold Italian, to be randomly discovered and perhaps dipped into by people I don’t know browsing in various places that sell books across the country, is exhilarating.
I was as profumatissimo back then as I am now: always scanning the shelves of the profumerie that dot every other street corner and coveting new scents for myself or goading on others to buy them as well; getting through bottle after bottle of Dior Fahrenheit, my signature of the time ( I can’t remember if I wore anything else, initially, except later, Kenzo Pour Homme – I can see myself on a hot summer’s night in Piazza Navona feeling ultra new; slick, young and cool in its fresh never-beforeness).
In those first few months in Rome, I had been living with some Italian university students who were taking forever to graduate, given that you yourself can decide in Italy when to take the required (oral) examinations (I think it took them about seven years )………so easy to procrastinate instead and just lounge around your apartment smoking and drinking espresso instead – amazing how quickly you make friends there and get invited to be a housemate…….. – I remember beardy, philosophical Federico and his poignantly beautiful bottle of Signoricci – one of the most refined and delicate citruses ever created; I can see it there, placed carefully on his bookshelf.
Following this I was happily living with two friends from university in our apartment next to a flashing Campari sign; the always glamorous Rachel (our diva), who wore Obsession or No 19 ( I always used to berate her for wearing such oppositional fragrances as they would sometimes linger together on clothes and create an unwanted third party); and Adam, more reserved and serious, who usually wore the hard-bodied Cerruti 1881, suiting his nocturnal exploits in the clubs near where we lived in Testaccio. We only had two beds, and had a roster where two of us would share one; one in the other. We were always out in Trastevere with our friends, Maurizio (Krizia Uomo – fantastic), and the ultra-intense Alessandra, who had a precious big bottle of Cartier Must extrait that we would pore over, and I would sniff enviously, in her room,as she told me of her obsessive train trips to see the lover that had given it to her somewhere in Germany.
Emma would come down from Florence every once in a while – a dazzling jewel box of a city that it is nevertheless less exciting than Rome – wearing her exquisite Cristalle, I believe (or had she already discovered Jardins De Bagatelle?) ;when Helen came, and we got locked in the cemetery in Testaccio sitting and dreaming in the sunset next to Keats’ grave, for all I know she may have still been wearing Eternity.
I was there again last year. And it was fascinating for me, standing in the rain in that same graveyard, alone, next to Keats, moved to tears; almost thirty years older, but though conscious of the passage of time, wonderfully alive; feeling, somehow that I was exactly the same. The same but different; evolved. A continuum. That I had not compromised myself: just a more experienced version of that hopelessly romantic young man who would come to that gated, silent place marshalled by cats and just read or write letters; wondering what life was about and what he should do, but palpitating inwardly, always, clear as a bell, with the overwhelming beauty of it all. Standing there, under my umbrella, breathing in the cold, clear air, I realized that I still feel things just as keenly, as intensely; as passionately.