Rive Gauchepublished: 2009-07-15
The women’s toilet in our office building smells of Chanel 5. Clearly, it was sprayed by some elegant lady before me, as a cover-up for the pooh she did.
It had me thinking of the last time a specific perfume was ruined for me. I was twelve years old, that coming-of-age time in your life. We lived in Ghana and I had a really cool boyfriend. His name was Rastan Kasardjan. Why I still remember that name, god only knows. His nickname was Rusty. He was half Lebanese, half Ghanaian. His father owned the local polo-club so he had many horses, which we would ride in the bush. Like maniacs. Preferably alongside the airport runway. We’d let the reins go, and the horses would race each other. There was no stopping them once they had worked themselves up into that state. We’d simply have to sit the ride out. I’d desperately cling on to the horse’s manes, both scared and excited at the same time. Well aware that some horses had the tendency to suddenly stop, or jump to the left when startled. After they calmed down and we gently trotted home, I’d be picking strands of the horse’s manes from between my sweaty fingers.
It was a rush. The way other adolescents rig up their scooters, I suppose.
One day, Rusty went on a really long trip to Cyprus. I almost died, that’s how much I missed him. At that age, heartache burns ten times as hard, and time takes twice as long. Luckily, he came back earlier than expected. His surprise visit was made known by a loud argument at our gates. The guards wouldn’t let him through, despite their knowing him. Rusty was sensitive about that kind of thing. But at the time, Ghana was a dangerous place. My sister and I were to announce any visitors or they wouldn’t be let in. And yes, everyone drove cars at 14.
I ran out, opened the gates. Rusty triumphantly threw his pick-up truck through our gates, spinning wheels and all. He was steering the truck with only one hand, the way he rode his horses. His other hand dangled out the window and held a blue, rectangular box: Rive Gauche. He dropped it in my hands. It was my first ever bottle of perfume.
I would use tiny little bits of it at a time, as I wanted to save it for as long as I could. But I dropped that bottle. It fell to smithereens on the bathroom floor. And so the smell of Rive Gauche was forever ruined. Its scent brings back the vile smell of our toilet in Ghana.