Having a brain tumor is indeed a danse apache. Instead of a Montmartre pimp for a partner, I have Mephisto-- the chickpea-sized lesion that presses deep into my left frontal lobe like an accusing fingertip. I demonstrate for him daily every ounce of my fury and contempt, tossing my head and turning away in purest defiance from his rough, unwanted overtures. And what does he do? He hauls me back, bends me this way and that, flings me down and yanks me to my feet-- all the while remaining invisible, untouchable, devoid of remorse. From his magisterial throne safe within my skull, he calls all the shots. Ah, la chienne de vie!
But I have hit upon a way to tame my inner demon: copious amounts of vintage Cabochard. Something in this farouche herbal leather brings the little fiend to heel. In fact, Mephisto himself must be directing me on the day I head out in blind search of vintage perfume... and come home with a lifetime supply of his favorite.
I'd heard rumors that the antique store where DC and I uncovered our first bottle of Cabochard had just reopened after months of renovation. Could that faceless, magical vendor from whom I'd bought Cabochard, Réplique, Shalimar, Jolie Madame, Joy, and my precious vintage Crêpe de Chine extrait still be consigning there? The answer: hell no. The Point Pleasant Antiques Emporium has transformed itself from a chaotic treasure attic to upscale "home accents gallery", all spartan whitewashed walls and modern ceiling fans a-twirl-- and no room nor use for perfume. (Bastards!)
Discouraged but not yet defeated, I walk two blocks over to the Point Pavilion Antiques Center on Arnold Avenue-- another place where my Fairy 'Fume-Mother has been known to consign. Again, nothing. Now feeling positively grim, I get back in my car and just start driving. No goal, no aim; I just want to clear my head. But Mephisto, in his usual domineering fashion, begins turning the steering wheel toward Red Bank. That town having been perfume-dry for months, I naturally think him deluded-- but he's the boss, applesauce, so I do as I'm bidden.
There will be (he assures me) ample time to thank him.
No sooner do I walk down the center aisle than a chill of realization hits me. In front of me sits a quaint carved-wood vitrine-- familiar, yet curiously out of place. Of course it is-- for it used to sit in the Point Pleasant Antiques Emporium, dispensing scented delights. I look closer. Sure enough, through its glass panels I glimpse a most distinctive bottle, adorned with a bow tie of taupe velvet ribbon under a frosted-glass stopper embossed with a G. Right next to it sits a full and unopened vintage flacon of Guerlain Chamade extrait, as casual and companionable as you please.
Aha, says Mephisto.
Store employees direct me to an elderly man, recognizable as the gentleman from whom my pal JC had purchased a rare amethyst-glass hobnail vase two years ago. I point out the perfume bottles, and he beams. With much arthritic key-fumbling, he manages to extract Cabochard from the vitrine. I carefully pull the stopper out and inhale deeply. Mephisto concurs: it's perfection.
"Oh, can I?" the old man says. I hold the stopper to his nose. "Yes... yes. These are my wife's," comes his rusty murmur. Inside me, Mephisto sends a tingle across my scalp. Could it be...?
"She has so many perfumes, consigned here and there, all over the place," the gentleman (my Fairy 'Fume-FATHER?) continues. "She hated to give them up, but they're more than she could ever wear herself..."
"I think I've ended up with some of them over time," I tell him carefully. "Every single one has been so perfectly preserved; they are among the best I have ever had. Please thank her for me, and let her know these are going to a very appreciative home."
"Oh, she'll like that."
Driving home with both precious bottles paper-wrapped beside me on the car seat, I think of my other passenger-- Mephisto, with whom I so often find myself engaged in a pitched battle. Is it possible that he is the source of that sixth sense I've described which pulls me unerringly like a dowsing rod in the direction of things I cannot see? Is this what happens when I stop fighting against him and just let him lead?
May I have my reward now? he asks.
Smug little fucker. I make him wait until the car is no longer in motion to dab more Cabochard on our wrists.