There was a time back in the late Nineties, when, at every gathering, at least one of our friends, boy or girl, was wearing the CK One perfume. You were in the car with your mates, singing while driving out of the city for the weekend, and the car smelled CK One, you were outside a club before a concert, and the crowd smelled CK One, you were in the class, at your friends’ house, in a bar for a coffee, at the library, and, somehow, the scent of CK One spread through the air. That fragrance was everywhere, it was so merged with the athmosphere that it passed quite unnoticed. CK One was my then best friend’s perfume, and her boyfriend’s too. At that time I did not really like it that much. But now, if by chance I happen to listen to Chumbawamba, Song number two, Mano Negra, Vento d’Estate, my brain automatically reproduces that fresh lemon-jasmine-musk smell, and I can’t help smiling.
This serves to introduce the fact that I met him, my twenty-years-ago-best-friend’s boyfriend, on Christmas eve, in a crowded shop, in a town were neither one of us lives.
– Hey! is that you? So you live here!
– Hi! How nice to meet you! I don’t live here. Do you?
– Nope! That’s so weird! You look fine! How are you doing?
She was jealous of her exclusive relationship with each one of us, so we never talked much. We used to look at each other from a safe distance while we separately shared her attentions, her secrets, and a great deal of her time.
And now we were standing in the crowd, smiling and chatting: two middle aged nearly strangers, who unexpectedly recognized each other. We hugged and wished merry Christmas, and on his neck and jacket (a dark grey corduroy jacket) I could distinctly smell that CK One fragrance.
Did he still use it?
Or did I made it up?
Anyway, I smelled it. Time stood still for how long? A blink?
For as long as that blink lasted I stood in the neon light of the shop in a parallel dimension of infinite possibilities, where all the choices that had led us to be those adults with glasses, scarves and corduroy jackets who had casually met in a foreign city, were still to be made. All of the friends, lovers, babies, music, travels, projects that I would lose in the process of being my present self, and all of those that I will never have in the future, materialised for a moment around us. I smelled the bold innocence of my nineteen years and I thought: thanks goodness I was not aware of how fragile everything is.
Then we said goodbye, moved away and it was over.