A week at the front.

Day One
Mondays are not for Hermèssence Osmanthe Yunnan. True, its lovely quietude is ideal for workplace wear. But unobtrusiveness is not always a virtue; service desk work requires strong encouragement and mental vigor. As soon as Osmanthe Yunnan has decently died away, I opt for a contrasting follow-up. Unfortunately, my last remaining drops of Armani Privé Bois d'Encens seem to have "turned"-- smelling less like the profound incense I remember and more like hamster-cage cedar shavings. I deflate. Others find the scent wonderful -- enfolding me in a welcome-home embrace, my husband remarks that I smell gooooooood -- but I am skeptical.

Day Two
My day begins with a phone call from a woman ranting brokenly about mannequins, pedophiles, and terrorism; it ends with me filling out an incident report about the glowering male patron who threatened me in front of a half-dozen witnesses. The general perception of libraries -- that they are blissful centers of peaceable study and well-mannered monotony -- bears no resemblance whatsoever to the place where I work. Sadly, neither I nor my Guerlain Chamade prove equal to the reality. I go home early (calling my husband to act as bodyguard), douse myself thoroughly with Etro Shaal Nur and pour myself a drink so stiff it practically suffers from rigor mortis.

Day Three
Agitated and distressed from lack of sleep after yesterday's disturbing events, I attempt to get ready for work but find myself pacing around the house in tears. Three antidotes present themselves: 1) Take a personal day. 2) Go thrifting. 3)Parfumerie Générale Iris Taïzo. I choose all three. Let me face my troubles tomorrow-- god knows they'll be waiting for me.

Day Four
Up at 7:30 to head to the laundromat, the natural habitat of the sullen and unsociable. I fit right in. Home, shower, dress. Lunch: a quick egg frittata incorporating leftover chicken sausage, sauteed fennel, bell peppers, and Kalamata olives. I linger as long as possible over it, reluctant to leave the safety of my house. What better suits this mood than By Kilian's Back to Black ? It had better speak for me, because I have precious little to say today.

Day Four
Upon rising this morning, I feel so fucking lousy I don't even bother to shower. In America, failure to bathe at least once a day is considered a clear sign of antisocial mental illness. In Europe, no big whoop. Existential angst is très Continental: more Back to Black, please.

Day Five
Having spent the day cleaning, come evening I realize I've forgotten to wear any fragrance at all today. After dinner, I upend the tail end of a sample vial of Serge Lutens El Attarine into my palm, rub my hands together and slap the scent on like aftershave. It's pretty much like I remember it: sweet, ambery, inoffensive, reminiscent in some vague way of a better fragrance. Still, an easy thing to wear when you don't want to think too much.

Day Six
More Serge Lutens today-- Chergui in the morning, Shiseido Feminite du Bois at night. On one hand, I love this universal message of buttery woods. On the other hand, Black Mark smells so similar and is so much less expensive than anything Uncle Serge keeps in those fancy bell jars, I might as well declare my loyalty to proletarian perfume and be done.

Day Seven
Back to work with a heart wreathed in thorns of anger. With what should I cushion myself against the world-- or the world against me? Fearing that I might haul off and say the very words that will get me fired today, I need something that smells as bland and nonthreatening as possible. Amouage Opus I presents itself as a likely agent of salvation-- a plush throw rug of a fragrance, as warm as lambswool, as soft as a cloud. I make myself remote and unreachable within its center. By midday it has worked its magic-- my fury, having collided again and again against the inner walls of Opus I's padded room, is now blunted and silent. I can't say I feel good, exactly, but better than I did will have to do.