That girl at the party sitting in a chair, plastered from too many beers slurred, “You smell like wheat germ and almonds.” I wasn’t sure whose scent she was describing, but I was the only one close enough to be inhaled and registered.
I remember thinking then, almost thirty years ago, what an amazingly precise olfactory perception for a nearly senseless drunk. I laughed after she said it, but she didn’t seem to mind, not taking it as ridicule anyhow. It wasn’t. The weirdness of her image drew a laugh to fill the gap that most certainly emerges after a statement like that.
She brought on the chuckle because she used the word wheat germ. Back then, who at this Bruce Springsteen-blaring keg party would know such a thing? Not me. And then I worried about how I smelled. I didn’t know whether wheat germ smelled foul or fragrant. I wrenched my neck to sniff my pits. I still can’t smell myself.
Almonds? What do they smell like raw? Nothing. Roasted and chopped, they smell heavenly, like earth and sun. If a lover ever told me my aroma was nothing lovelier than freshly roasted and chopped almonds, I’d blush with the flattery.
But here was this inebriated partygoer unconsciously tossing out poetry as if no one was listening or worrying about body odor. She might have been talking to herself, but my youthful narcissistic self felt besieged with momentary muse-filled doubt.
A few days later I asked my mother what wheat germ smelled like. And without a second’s notice of the question’s oddness, she replied, “How the hell should I know?”