Olfactories (Beginning)

Love at first sight takes 75 minutes. It could happen faster if we allowed it in the young, but we think they don’t understand love. Their province is infatuation. Adults require 75 minutes.

The pheromones don’t take that long. They waft at an average speed of seven inches a second; they crossed the span in a minute and a half. The middle-aged people named Polly and Hank saw each other at the speed of light and sensed each other just a little later, but they didn’t follow their impulses for nearly an hour.

Ask me what I’ve always wanted and I’ll describe this. My roots are absolutely normal: salt-of-the-earth American, raised in the country among my own kind. But I’ve arrived now. This is my hour. After a lifetime in the dark, at last I sense heat.

The fact is, people are rather gross. Their palates aren’t as subtle as chefs behave, and their minds are not that susceptible to subliminal messages. In the grand scheme of human perceptions, pheromones and subtleties don’t matter much, compared to basic ego. That Polly exuded a molecule shaped like a receptor in Hank’s forehead didn’t promote their union any more than the ambient temperature in the room where they met.

The facts are, Polly and Hank were each present and ready.

She was 53 and he had just observed, grumpily, his 60th birthday. She hadn’t been in a relationship for a decade. Neither had had sex for a year. Both were burned out by their careers, having risen to consulting positions in their respective industries, where they were so capable that all they ever worked on were the nastiest and most thankless problems. His environmental business had him flying so often that he suffered from a chronic respiratory infection, while her management consulting operation meant she drove an average of 700 miles a week, in all the traffic. They were both overweight and medicated for hypertension.

The warmth continues into me, and of course I soften. From starch I sweetly melt. I was raised with my siblings dreaming of sunlight and now, finally, I feel this. My skin eases. Yearning quiets.

Polly smelled jasmine as she saw him, and the scent probably made her more receptive. Someone opened the door to the back garden, tumbling the fragrance like low smoke through the stuffy room. Her brain zipped to memories of summer evenings from childhood, when the night-blooming jasmine drifted its incense through the screened open windows in the back of her aunt’s big house at the end of dinnertime, just as she and her brothers were about to burst out of doors for hide-and-seek in the late dusk.

She had decided that morning to take a day off. She tended to work every day for at least several hours, and it had been over three months since she had a free Sunday. But that morning she resolved otherwise. She did nothing customary. She didn’t exercise immediately; in fact, she never got around to it all day. She drank less coffee. She even agreed to stop by the little fundraiser.

This entry was posted in Fiction. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s