"The Lost Chord" By Luca Turin
When I was sixteen, I went on holiday in Spain with a group of kids. Despite the reassuring brochure intended for the parents (healthy and abundant food, constant supervision), we made non-stop mayhem. There was, as always, an eye in that storm. At its center stood a serious, quiet, beautiful girl with dark hair in a ponytail, dark blue eyes and red lips. I adored her from a distance, sat next to her watching TV the evening of the first moon landing and was not spoken to more than twice. On the train back, the others seemed to stand aside when time came to share sleeping births. We ended up facing each other all night in silence, our noses an inch away from each other, and the air in between crackling with an energy science cannot yet measure. She wore a strange perfume I hadn’t noticed before, that felt to me like one of those blue chords Thelonious Monk invented: unresolved, and strangely at peace. At the Gare de Lyon, my parting shot was to ask her what her perfume was. She said Imprévu , by Coty.
Twenty years later, I managed to get hold of Imprévu, by then discontinued and hard to find. I smelled it every which way, but that chord was not in there. Unaccountably, she seemed to have lied. The chord has chimed past me perhaps three times since then, and every time I failed to find out what it was. By then I had noticed something strange. Every fragrance has two faces: one for every day, and another one it shines on you perhaps once a year, as if lit from within by some mysterious joy. I first noticed this with my scooter, whose exhaust smoke, usually flat and oily, very occasionally came across as richly aromatic, a laughing smell of open road. This got me worried: suppose the Chord was actually the transfigured face of something I smelled rarely anyway. How would I ever figure it out ? A month ago, while on holiday in the Austrian Alps, I smelled it again. It came from a woman in the cablecar line. This time, I was not going to let it slip by. My wife Desa asked in German. The woman looked a little surprised that anyone should be sniffing the air near her, but the answer came: “a body cream by Dieter”… Desa wasn’t sure of the second half by the time she came back to tell me. Reader, please help. Monk’s hands are poised above they keyboard.