A friend of mine sent me a link to an article of my signature scent – Fracas what else? It opens as follow “There are perfume legends, there are perfumer legends, and then there are perfumes that become obsessions. Fracas is all three…”. I couldn’t agree more. The opening line alone identifies my own olfactory obsession with this most elusive, intrusive and obtrusive of perfumes.
It started with a rumour in an fashionable magazine. The year was 1996. We had left the dark era of grunge and were heading towards glamour and sophistication. The article, which I must have read a dozen time since, was appropriately called Scents of Desire. It’s about women, dark-side women and their illustrious affairs with perfumes. These women, as the epithet so well describes, embrace their carnal natures through hope, fear, fantasy and adventures. I am not sure I fitted the description. But I wanted to, hopelessly, desperately. I wanted to be the woman with an apartment on the 7th arrondissement, drifting from boutique to boutique by day whilst engaging in nocturnal rendez-vous when twilight was casting its spell. I wanted to be the refined woman that went to the most seediest of places to lose myself in my very own erotic fantasies. I wanted to be the victim in Eyes wide Shut, achieving fame and fortune through sacrifice.
Naturally these were all fantasies, and there is a big difference between harbouring and enacting them. But there was one thing that would grant me a little bit of that magic – it was the perfume of Fracas. From then on, I was on a sacred quest to find my prized possession. Every country, city and town I came too, often when on business trips, were potential targets. It took me years and even the most well assorted Parisian perfume stores did not stock it, at least not back then.
But one day I struck gold. It was a strange episode really. I was travelling to Milano for a project implementation at a HP call centre. The account manager for the site was with me, a native Milaneese. There certainly was a chemistry between us, and when there appeared to be a mix up with the hotel booking I secretly wished we would end up in the same room. However we both protested, out of courtesy towards each other, and eventually two rooms were presented, alas. The hotel was in an industrial area, in a high rise building from the 60’s. It had a strange, almost oppressive atmosphere, and it felt like we were the only two guests. I suggested we took a cab into town and A agreed. Milano was everything I had hope it would be, and then more. I found a beautiful dress from Alan Journo, a dress not dissimilar from what Nicole Kidman wore in Moulin Rouge. It was tight and I asked A to help me zip it up. He looked approvingly at the end result, and thus I bought it.
As we were walking the misty streets of Milano we came across a small, tucked away, perfume store. One of those very old ones that hasn’t turned over their stock since the 1950’s. I still had little hope they would sell Fracas.
‘Fracas, si si’ the woman said to my surprise. At that moment I felt I had found my holy grail. I didn’t care what the price would be nor how it would smell. I just had to have it. The woman asked if I wanted to try it and I happily agreed. The scent that opened was the most extraordinary, sultry scent I had ever come across. It was leagues ahead of Mitsouko and Magie Noir the only two dark-side scents I knew back then. Like a veil it descended on my skin, and for a moment time stood still, I think for all three of us. I took out my credit card and bought it as fast as I could, like I was afraid it would disappear before my very eyes.
A and I went for dinner, and several times during the course of the evening he asked if he could smell it. I happily obliged. I don’t know if it was the allure of the perfume, or the strange yet ordinary events of the day that set the wheels in motion but just as we said goodbye outside my hotel room, he asked to smell once more. This time I didn’t hand him my wrist but instead turned my head exposing the side of my neck. It was the invite for a kiss, and he responded with gratitude.
We said our goodbyes. We were both in relationships, and nothing was ever going to come out of it. Still that night, I could not sleep, reliving the moments of a kiss long lost to memory and oblivion.