Perfume

“Why is perfume collecting a black hobby?” asks an elegant black woman.

“Now we’re getting somewhere.” says Lacey.

“Why?” asks Lauren Bacall.

“Love is just too normal to ruin.” says Lem.

“True.” says Lacey. “Too essential.”

“If you look at the history of the spice trade. Oud. Middle Eastern usage of fragrant oils. Fragrance in general. It’s place in Islam.” she says. “It’s a blessing from God. For His children.”

“Oh that’s right. You have connections to elite black people.” says a hater.

“You damn well better hope so.” says Lacey, ironically. “But you know, there are lots of black Christians.” She thinks. “Lots of African Christians.”

“And there’s the whole manger scene.” says a Muslim.

“Yes.” says Lacey.

“Well, I suppose they were Jewish.” he says quickly.

“Yes.”

“So it’s hobby of those who cherish beauty.” he cries.

“It seems so.”

Silence.

“Well, what about the history of Lalique? Like we talked about earlier?” asks the elegant black woman.

“I don’t know enough about their history. They’re French of course, and the Russians contributed an enormous amount too.” says Lacey.

“And the Russians perfected my ancestor’s customs is what you suggested?” she asks.

“Yes. Not in context of what your ancestors actually did, but as an objective art.” says Lacey. “The art of wearable fragrance.”

“I would agree to that!” says the Muslim. “It’s not just for us. And they added what they could to our art.”

“Exactly!” says Lacey.

Silence.

“An improvement is an improvement. Even if it comes from someone you hate.” says Lacey.

The woman smiles.

“No, you’re right. And it’s not the same as what my ancestors did. It’s not us. It’s more big picture than that.” she says.

“Yes. But it belongs in its origins to an area of the world not necessarily European, in my estimation. And to me it seems dominated by black culture. Possibly Islamic and black cultures.” Lacey says.

“Well, and Hindus and Jews.” she adds.

“Yes. But…as much as Asians and the convergence of all those cultures in Russia contribute…and developed it…I wonder if it’s somehow African.” says Lacey.

“What about Persia?” asks the Muslim.

“The oils though? The oils used for wearing the perfume. Are those more native to Africa?” asks Lacey.

“Actually, I tend to think they’re more from the Middle East. But you wonder about North and Central Africa?” asks the Muslim.

“Yes!”

“But you think it’s still our thing? And you had a right to enjoy it. But maybe not to it’s roots?” the woman asks.

“Yes!”

“Well, respectfully, I think you could enjoy a good, real oud.” says the Muslim.

“Is real oud really all that much better?” asks Lacey.

The Muslim man laughs and smiles.

He nods his head. “Yes! It’s a tragic joke to compare them.”

He smiles at her knowingly and then almost cries.

Lacey cries too.

“What else is there to say? It’s…glorious. And I’m blessed my ancestors improved some notes.” says Lacey.

“You use ancestors loosely?” he says laughing.

“Yes! I’m sorry!” she says.

“That’s okay! I knew what you meant.”

Silence.

“I’m furious with Lem right now. I’m sorry, Lacey.” he says.

“God left him with all those kids. As a man. And he blew it.” says the elegant woman.

“I try to be calm about it.” says Lacey. “But they were just kids no matter how vile they were as people.”

He agrees.

“And you would have loved them? You think?” he asks.

Lacey laughs. This man knows. “Yes. Even if I had to threaten their lives.”

He looks at her and breathes deeply.

“Do you think they would have tried to kill you?” he asks.

“I have no idea what those kids were capable of.” she says.

“And you’re right. According to legend they got Lem addicted to heroin.” he says. “Among other things.”

“My own kids aren’t like that. But someone needed to try to love them.” She thinks. “I just wouldn’t have ever assumed the best.”

“Would you have tried drugs with them?” he asks.

“No, that’s like letting them kill you while you kill them. And I just can’t believe he was that evil.” Lacey says.

“Like mutual suicide or mutual murder?” he asks.

“Mutual murder if I’m talking to his ghost, in my opinion. He’s sweet. But he has a hidden temper.” Lacey says. “At least, that’s my opinion.”

“So you think he was letting them die?” he asks.

“I worry he was… I don’t think he meant them any harm, necessarily, as horrific as that sounds. But I think he thought they were Kennedy’s. And he both loved and secretly hated them.” says Lacey.

“You think he thought those kids were dangerous and possibly better off dead?” he asks.

“Possibly.”

“And you still see them as kids.”

“As gruesome as that is. Kids are kids.” says Lacey.

“But you still have empathy for Lem?” he asks.

“I think I know what he was thinking. It was knives out. Each human for themselves. But what he missed was the fragility and innate vulnerability of a child. Possibly?” She thinks. “Or he was a pervert. …But if he wasn’t a pervert, and the man I’ve possibly met isn’t. …Then he was a disgusting fool. At best.”

He agrees.

“Do you think, elephant in the room, that it was related to the tragic possible abuse he received as a teenager?” he asks.

“Yes. If I’m talking to his ghost. Yes.”

“He never processed his own vulnerability except for deciding he was a homosexual, possibly in absolute error.” says the man.

“And that too was possibly incorrect and an assumption made to protect himself from seeing his own vulnerability in that moment.”

The man cries.

“No, I see what you mean. He decided he was invulnerable and therefore those kids were too. And they were therefore accountable for their actions. As an adult.” He thinks. “Because to him, a teenager was more of an adult in certain ways than they are?”

“He was either a pervert…or he was sophisticated enough to see the nuance of things…and while he wouldn’t have molested Bobby Jr. because he didn’t find him attractive, he was willing to let him kill himself. And he got that horribly wrong. Because not only should teenagers not be dying in a war of adults, they also shouldn’t be allowed to use deadly substances. Alcohol isn’t inherently deadly. Heroin will almost always kill you eventually. And I can’t believe he didn’t secretly know that.”

“Did he realize that eventually?” asks the man. “That he was straight, that he’d ruined his life…and that he’d been a monster to those kids?”

“And killed himself to maintain a lie he thought was better than the truth? Because the truth was his personal hell? And no one would ever really care about it except for him?”

“My thoughts too.”

“Because life was far too excruciatingly painful to fathom living any longer.” says Lem.

“And you have little sympathy, really.” says the man. “But you care.”

“I have sympathy. But I think it was grossly self-indulgent on his part to commit suicide if he did.” says Lacey.

“What should he have done?” asks the man.

“Oh golly. Gotten over himself. He screwed-up. Deal with it.” She thinks. “Did he think he was Jesus?” She thinks more. “It’s complicated. But adding his own death was genuinely futile. He should have let himself die of sadness and sobriety or lived bitterly another ten or twenty years.” She breathes. “Pain isn’t going to kill you. And if it does you’ll go unconscious. And then die. And that’s more honorable. To die fighting.”

“In honor of homeless kids?” says Lem.

“Yeah! Based on their pain what bloody right did you have to give a damn?” she asks. “Right?” she asks smiling gently. “Sorry for swearing.” She thinks. “Well, okay…not not care at all. Not that. Just not care too much.”

“But my pain guided me.” he says to Lacey.

“And I understand that.” she says.

“But you can’t let your pain guide you to Hell.” says the man.

“And I hope it didn’t go that far.” says Lacey. “I hope you repented as your brain slowly discovered you were abandoning it.” She looks at him. “Using it to apologize to God…as you left it to everyone to dissect and molest and devour.” She thinks. “Like a damned father to yourself.” Another thought. “Letting yourself indulge in one last fantasy that you weren’t the victim actually you were.” She goes on. “That’s why you die fighting not following your pain to the Hell the Devil commands you to.”

“You die screaming bloody murder of its a bloody murder?” says Lem.

“You torture them with their lack of evidence for no God until it haunts them and drives them insane, if necessary, into Heaven.” says Lacey.

“How?” he asks.

“By loving them. Arguing if necessary. Making them laugh. However you have to twist it to twist it back into order. Real order.”

“It’s war.” says Michael.

“Life is war until the end of the world as we know it. But war is fun when you’ve already won. And the loser is just the Devil.” says Lacey. “Although those are my interpretation of God’s words not mine.”

“As long as one doesn’t mistake the Devil for people. I agree.” says the man.

“The Devil can use people, certainly. But no, God loves us.” says Lacey. “He died for us. It’s…overwhelming. But our sin made it necessary. And I don’t want to add too much.”

“I agree. Best donate more money to charity and spend less on perfume.” he says.

“True. I’d like to collect a few more vintage or antique bottles. But, no, I’m done. You’re right, I think.” she says.

“If Lem is in Purgatory I’ll pray for him.” he says.

“As long as it doesn’t harm your soul and spirit to do so.” says Lacey.

“I should pray for myself.”

“Yes! Same here.” she says.