The coworker sitting next to me is a 30-something year old man who immigrated from Pakistan to Canada when he was a young teenager. He is a video game level designer, and every afternoon he takes a break and goes to pray at a prayer center unexpectedly located within walking distance from our office above an auto repair shop, and returns to work with a Wendy’s milkshake most of the time. He loves anime and wears a different nerdy T-shirt to work everyday like I wear a different perfume. He is familiar with both the Middle Eastern culture and the Western culture, and has a very liberal heart (I would say he has “synced up” with the Canadians’ worldview), a 100% nice guy, and also a devout Islamic follower. But little does he know, he has a more important purpose in life – a guinea pig for the perfumes that I develop with my perfumers.
“Here, smell this.” I don’t know how many times I have handed him a paper napkin, marked with a number and sprayed with some work-in-progress perfumes.
“Not bad,” “it’s very nice,” “this smells like a spice cabinet,” “this smells like attar from Pakistan,” “please flush it away, now, immediately” are some of his typical comments.
Then one time he said, “This is not perfume. It’s nice, I would wear this, but my wife will hate it. And really, this is not perfume.”
I was deeply worried, for the perfume that I just showed him was almost done, and “it’s not a perfume”.
A few days later while looking for a stapler, I found a sample of Armani’s Bois d’Encens in my drawer, and sprayed some on myself. Out of curiosity, I asked him for his opinion on this perfume.
“This is not perfume.”
“Say again? Did you know this is fricking Armani? I mean, would Armani release a perfume that is not perfume?”
“I know some Middle Eastern guys would wear this, but I can’t detect any florals in it, and it’s just wood and incense. My wife would not let me wear this in the house. No, it’s not perfume.”
The sky suddenly cleared – he needed a new life. No, a new wife. No, not really, but now I know I could release any perfumes that I like without worrying too much what other people think. I have to trust my taste.
To be fair, Bois d’Encens is a very straight forward perfume, exactly like what the title suggests, it is just woods and incense, with pink pepper, labdanum and vetiver. But the simplicity demands your attention and respect – it’s a tall, dark, austere smelling scent. When wearing it, you have the right to remain silent and refuse to answer questions.