Nag Champa (Nemat)

Yesterday and the day before, I wore a perfume oil almost three decades old. I purchased it in the summer of my twentieth year; we have matured together. It has outlasted ninety percent of my relationships, both friendly and familial. Not bad for a five-dollar souvenir.

I remember that long-ago summer well, when my sister and I joined a friend for a weekend in Cape May. We breakfasted on flapjacks and fresh blackberries at the famous Mad Batter, then took a meandering stroll along the waterfront. Beach weather more glorious you couldn't imagine-- wave after gentle wave scattering diamonds of sunlight on the sand. Somewhere along the way, we passed a kiosk peddling batik pareos and vials of perfume oil. I walked away with a tiny, gold-capped bottle of Nemat Nag Champa, a memento of summer joy and innocence.

But summers end, and so does innocence; nothing is immortal. Within a year the friendship would be over, wounded irreparably by selfishness and blame. Twenty-five years passed before I set foot in Cape May again-- this time without my sister, who is now a stranger. The temps that my bottle of Nag Champa represents are truly perdu, and I avoid painful recherche like the plague. Nemat Nag Champa has turned into something more than a sweet smell. It is my olfactory madeleine.

I would not trade it for gold or glory.