Helen Schlegel

I am Helen Schlegel.


Most of my life can be explained if you think of me through that lens.

Michael laughs.

Lem feels feisty.

Louis feels triumphant.

And Lacey feels deeply disturbed.

Of course.

Dear perfume community…I’m Helen Schlegel. Not a Virginia Woolf character. *eye-roll* And yes, there is a difference.

“You both repel and attract!” said a hater to me in a direct message this summer. I hadn’t thought she was a hater. *sigh* And no, unfortunately it’s not quite like that… It’s funnier…but it’s also far more disturbing.

She’s not queer. She’s not pretentious. She’s not a terrible bully. She’s not fake. She’s…emotional, sensitive and often in tune with darkness. Not to destroy herself or others but for the opposite reason.

A middle-aged, upper-middle class, wealthy woman in Brooklyn rests her head on the palm of her hand in exasperation. She rolls her eyes. Her mouth drops open. She scoffs not out of hatred… Not this time. This time out of a realization that some people really just are dramatically different than us. And if we try to understand purely through our own mind…they’ll permanently elude us. And to her, Lacey is that…absurd.

“She is like a ghost.” the woman says smiling. “Questionable. …But…we can almost certainly verify that she exists.” She smiles to herself.

“What in the world would you do with someone like her if you had to raise her?” asks the woman’s husband.

“Listen…”. She calculates. She smiles again. “I’d send her to France. Make her actually live there in her 20’s.”

“She’d be our weird little creature.” her husband says.

“I’d tell you, ‘She’s like a mermaid. Or a unicorn. Creatures like that…clearly exist in our world.’” She grins. “And I think the best thing to do is to give her means to take care of herself and then set her loose.” She laughs.

A man named Tom wouldn’t have raised his Helen Schlegel that way though. But…if you aren’t Tom…Lacey wonders what else one would do.

“If they didn’t love you?” asks Louis to clarify.

“Well…it’s still a loving way to handle me though.” she wonders.

“It’s more loving than some ways of handling you.” says Jerome.

“In a way that is what her family has done.” says another ghost. “Regardless of her so-called legitimacy.”

“Not enough.” the woman in New York protests.

“You would have never thought your family really loved you.” observes John Knowles.

“Nope!” says Lacey. She laughs. “I’d probably have considered becoming a nun.”

John Knowles looks at her sincerely horrified. But an Irish-American author finds it hilarious.

“Why a nun?” asks the Irish-American author.

“I would have instinctively been looking for God.” says Lacey.

“Oh yeah. No, you would have.” says Harold Loeb.

Harold doesn’t want to think about how much happier she’d have been…having been loved sincerely just that little bit more.

“Do I lose interest in evil by nature or nurture?” asks Lacey.

Scott laughs.

“Nature.” says Tom.

“He could rule over people partially because he was so good at standing back and analyzing it all objectively. Crudely.” says Al.

“He was frightfully honest.” says Clark.

“It’s just in my nature to get swept away with the truth, one way or another. But I still need God and can’t save myself, of course. And I can see that too. Because I’m not in charge of everyone and I wouldn’t want to be. And I wouldn’t get it right anyway.” Lacey says.

“I don’t think we would have hurt her quite as much as you have, Joe.” says the woman.

And at first Lacey doubts the woman. She finds her supposed anger endearing, however. But still…

Then Lacey begins to wonder.

“Is she right?” she asks Louis and Michael in fear.

Michael empathizes with Lacey’s confusion.

…An add for pumpkin spice lattes comes on the radio. Lacey hates pumpkin spice lattes. Not because they’re terrible tasting but because they always make her nauseated and give her a terrible headache.

“I think I’m literally allergic to them.” Lacey says.

Louis finds this hilarious. He has a similar sense of humor to Lacey.

“You hate 20th and 21st Century culture post WWII for the most part.” John Knowles says to Lacey about herself.

Lacey can’t tell if he’s offended by that very real possibility or not. She finds things she loves about post WWII 20th and the early 21st Century like the “I Love Lucy” show and Woody Allen…and…Chanel No. 19…and Hermès Amazone…and some music…and…the abundance of sparkling water…and Queen Elizabeth II’s reign. Vaccines. Antibiotics. Medical advances in general. 1950’s and 60’s Dior and Chanel. Her kids and ex-husband. …Maybe certain moments from “The Office.”

“He doesn’t love you!” screams Gore Vidal about Lem to Lacey.

“I bet Lem would have loved pumpkin spice lattes.” says the woman in Brooklyn.

“And what if she’s right? That’s why. That’s the problem, Lacey.” says Michael. “You’re too expensive. You’re just…too…expensive.” He throws his feet over the side of a chair.

He’s hurt.

“I’m not! I feel bad. You shouldn’t be this confused.” says Louis.

“Okay! That’s it!” says Lem.

“I’m in trouble…yet again.” says Michael.

“I love how my wife gets along with these people. But they don’t like me.” says the woman’s husband.

“You married up!” yells his friend.

He shrugs and smiles.

Lacey is getting progressively more confused.

“Not because she’s an idiot though. Quite the opposite.” says Michael. “Quite…the…opposite.”

“Can you handle a Helen Schlegel type?” asks John Knowles of Michael Rockefeller.

“I can!” yells Louis.

John Knowles feels out of his league.

“I can’t believe that!” says Lacey sincerely to the author.

“Please! You’ve read my other book.” he laughs.

Lacey laughs.

John Knowles smiles.

“And my dear…this is the sort of nonsense…you’d understand if I’d raised you.” the woman says smiling now too.

“But I love my freedom.” says Lacey.

Michael invites her to go jump on his bed upstairs with him. Literally. Once upstairs he slams his door shut and locks it.

“Well.” says Lem.