Modine's New Orleans: Perfuming the Pulse Points

LORI OSIECKI ILLUSTRATION

I hate to admit it, but as you get older you got to try a lot harder. Give it everything you got. Stomach in, boobs out at all times. And forget that rumpled-just-out-of-bed look that used to be sexy. It is now a Morgus-the-mad-scientist look until you get some coffee in you.

Me and my friend Awlette was talking about it. Her opinion is, don’t worry about it. Men are getting older too and they can’t see so good any more. But they can still do one thing pretty well. I say, “Grope?” She says, “Smell. You got a signature scent, Modine?”

It happens I just read about signature scents in one of them slutty ladies’ magazines while I was waiting at the supermarket checkout. It is a perfume you wear all the time – you put it on your wrists, which the article calls “pulse points,” and it’s supposed to smell so good that as soon as you walk in the room every man looks at you like you’re a wardrobe malfunction at the Super Bowl. I was halfway through this article when my turn came, so I stuck it back in the rack without finishing it. That was a mistake.

But it makes me start thinking about my gentleman friend Lust. He likes things that smell like food – crab boil for instance. I never seen him react to any other smells. So I’ll have to try out a few scents before I find the best one.

 I get the chance real soon because of my sister-in-law Gloriosa. She is the Gunch family beauty, and she married rich, and she lives Uptown with the society people.

 She is throwing a Superbowl party, and she’s afraid to invite the Gunches because of an unfortunate incident with her last party at Christmastime. Her brothers were supposed to bring a Yule Log for her fireplace, but instead they came in with a Y’all Log, which turned out to be a piece of telephone pole. I can tell you right now: once your start burning a telephone pole, the party is over.
Now she’s trying to re-ascend the Uptown social ladder, and she invites me because she figures I’m safe. Also, because her maid quit and she needs help.

 Just beforehand, she calls me up all panicky and asks can I rush over to Dillard’s because she needs some crystal. She means wine glasses – and not the plastic kind that anybody else on earth would use. She got to match the fancy glasses she already has. I say OK, because I got nothing better to do, being as Lust and all his friends are installed in the Sloth Lounge for the pre-Bowl, Bowl and post-Bowl observances.

 Dillard’s is almost deserted, and this poor little perfume sales girl looks at me like I was the last human on earth. She asks would I like to sample Puchquer d’Passion Parfum? Awlette wears that, and she smells pretty good, so I hold out my wrists and she gives me a few spritzes.

 After I walk off, I notice this terrible odor in the store. It seems to be everywhere, even up in the glassware department. “You people got a dead rat in the wall?” I ask the saleslady politely, and she says she don’t know, but she’s going to call maintenance. Then I leave, and that smell follows me right along, across the parking lot and into the car. I roll down all the windows.

And wouldn’t you know, on the way to Gloriosa’s I get behind what must be an unmarked garbage truck. They got something awful in that truck. Maybe a load of dead skunks. Or worse. I put my windows back up, but that don’t help none.

When finally I get there, Gloriosa throws open the door and says, “Thank Gawd you’re here; what’s that smell? Is there another marsh fire out in New Orleans East?” She steps out on her porch, sniffing.

I go past her and carry the wineglasses to the kitchen. I notice a couple of the other guests frown and glance toward the fireplace. But she ain’t got no Y’all Log there today. She got little squatty red church candles in a tasteful arrangement.

Gloriosa rushes into the kitchen, takes a deep breath and says, “You been wading in the dump?”

Me? And then I realize. I been smelling me this whole time.

I tell her about the Puchquer d’Passion Parfum. “Omigod,” says Gloriosa. “You put a strange parfum on your pulse points?” She must have read that same article all the way to the end.

“Modine, there’s a thing called body chemistry, which means that the chemicals in individual people react differently when they meet different perfumes. And a parfum can be extremely potent.”

I think parfum is just French for perfume, but I get her gist. The perfume that smells so nice on Awlette smells like the SDT garbage truck on me. Gloriosa is already dragging me upstairs to the bathroom shower. When I get out, she has my clothes in the washing machine, and she hands me a whole different outfit. “Underdrawers, never worn – I caught them off a float; bra – you don’t need one; shirt – this one is mine, so wear it backwards; casual jacket, stretchy pants; full-length apron to cover everything up. Meet me downstairs.”

I don’t look half bad. I guess when clothes are expensive enough they look good even when they don’t fit. So I pass around chips and crab dip and beer and act charming to all the guests.

By the time it’s all over, my clothes are washed and dried and don’t smell no more. I put them on. And before I leave, I dab some crab boil liquid on my pulse points. Lust will be waiting.

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