I bought some perfume in Cannes. I was walking around, there was a heat wave, so everyone had to be practically naked. Because of my tattoos I had been publicly assaulted numerous times. I don’t know why but the world seems to entitle itself to grope heavily tattooed women. Sometimes, it was charming, but that was in direct proportion to the attractiveness of the attacker. Other times, it was terrible almost to a horror movie scale. A young family of four, all dressed in tracksuits of red, green and yellow and royal blue took sight of me in the street on what was the hottest day in a hundred years. The young patriarch, who couldn’t have been more than 20, took his finger and ran it up my thigh between my legs, touching my inner parts. He was saying something in French, something about my tattoo, and the fear and anger rose up like bile in my throat. The daughter, about 12, ran up beside me and pinched my arm tattoo hard, then when I tried to push her off, she spat at me. She spat ON ME. I would have hit her, but I cannot strike a child, and I merely tried to keep her from pinching me. She started to hit me on my arms and breasts and reaching for my hair and I screamed right in her face “NO!!!!!” and the four of them scattered in different directions like the wind. I stood there panting and tears welling from my eyes but I did nothing. The fear choked me and I kept walking and it was broad daylight and no one helped me and I had been attacked and I was a million miles from home and it was blazing hot and I was alone and violated. There is nothing worse. So I went to buy some perfume. Walking hard, trying to ignore the stares of the moneyed classes of Cannes, gawking at the ink embedded in my skin, feeling no shame as they commented on my body loudly as I stood next to them. I know no French, but I do hear insults, no matter what language. English is the worst though. In line coming into heathrow in London, I heard a posh voice say, “I love when I express my hatred and then I see an example walking right in front of me…”
I walked for what seemed like miles, up the rue de Antibes, the Rodeo Drive of the South of France. I walked into le shoppe, a pretentious, stupid, ugly, clothes-too-small overpriced boutique for the 1% of the world. I picked up a golden revolver on display in the entrance. The overly tanned saleswoman, looking like a corpse that had been buried in the bogs brusquely said, “when you touch somesing – you must ask me first” then looking me over as if I was just out of women’s prison. I wanted to pinch her, but I just kept walking. I went far up, past the macaron shops – the French sweet I love so dearly – my favorite being the ones so large they look like Mcdonald’s cheeseburgers. The sugar in them makes my teeth ache and my face expand and I will never give them up. Fran Drescher and her sister Paula and Peter Mark Jacobson and I spent many delicious hours at the Carlton the night before and I put away most of the macaron, stuffing them into my face as if I had cheek pouches like a squirrel. Maybe I do….. mmmmmm chocolate and pistachio. Want to get me a gift? Get me macaron.
I walked. Walking off the macaron. Walking off the sexual assault. I came to a perfume store. I didn’t know what else to do. I walked in. The handsome, soft spoken man inside greeted me with the smile of a rape counselor. I was sure he was gay, and possibly a fan, but I didn’t want to presume anything. He asked me what I was looking for, and I said I didn’t know. I had never really worn fragrance, being more of a shower and go type of gal. Well, maybe not even shower, just go. If you know me, you know how true this is. Sometimes I won’t bathe – my justification being, “what’s in it for me?”. I am really gross. I told him that I didn’t understand perfume. I didn’t know what I wanted. I didn’t know what I should smell like, but that now, it was time to find out. He said, “this, is deeply personal. Mostly intuitive. If you smell it, you will know it. you will feel it. And it can be many different fragrances, for different times of the day. Different moods. Like clothing – it is about how you want to express yourself right then and there.” This was music to my ears. I had been feeling so awful. So jetlagged and lonely and then assaulted. I probably should have gone to the police but instead I came here, surrounded by amber and gold and rich potions in heavy cut glass bottles, their hue imbued with all the precious ingredients of the world – saffron, rose, musk, vetiver, leather, synthesized hormones, opium, sandalwood, violets, mint, jasmine, intellect, passion, wit and charisma. I wanted to cleanse my soul with a bracing bump of coffee bean. The handsome man looked at me all over – but not in the filthy, invasive way that the family (Manson or Texas Chainsaw Massacre style family) looked at me. Me looked at me with a respectfully distant but deep appreciation, and also with a searching quality. He was assessing my mood, my appearance and connecting it with scent. He took a few cardboard strips and started to collect bottles from around the shop, spraying each strip and handing them to me. He was silent and intense, focused on playing matchmaker between me and my new perfume. I smelled each. Not winners all. “this one will give me a migraine.” “oh no that smells too flowery.” “hm, I am not sure. That’s kind of too patchouli for me. I love the idea though.” “this smells like straight up chewing gum.” He gave me more strips. “this is better.” “ooh grapefruit. I love that.” “hm. I can’t tell. This is nice. Put this one aside.” We went through many. I tried to use my nose to help me. He was patient and devoted. Then I found it. Blanche by Byredo. I don’t know what is in it except maybe for white rose. I don’t know what it smells like, other than, it was me. I found myself. I smelled it and I knew it was me. it smelled like me, what it smells like to be inside this face, this head, this body. The handsome man was delighted. He could smell that it was me too. I paid for a big bottle. The handsome man wrapped everything up and put it in a startlingly beautiful art nouveau bag. He also packed up a dozen small bottles of samples for me to have for free. Perfumes he thought that I might consider later, which now I have tried and love. How sweet that he knew me now just from my scent. Then right before I left he said, “the man who makes this perfume, he has tattoos all over. Many tattoos. Very beautiful. I just remembered this. Isn’t that interesting?” It was, but I felt almost like I knew that already. It makes such sense. I thanked him profusely and walked back to my hotel. I sprayed myself with my new perfume and felt whole. Perfume is useless, I know. Who gives a shit really? But I was in need of comfort, and I was scared and I was far from home and I could find love only in a bottle – a perfume bottle, that is.
The sun was setting. I wanted to go outside and see it on the beach. I walked out, now perfumed and feeling less scared and less stared at and I was walking around with my head up high and maybe not really happy but happier – maybe – coming down from the fight-flight adrenaline from my attack. I was calmer. I smelled good, and now was breaking a sweat, stepping into the shadows of early dusk when the light in cannes is burnished gold. Everyone was starting to drink in the sidewalk cafes but the stores were still open. I saw some knee high red motorcycle boots that I liked, and the shopgirl let me try them on even though she wanted to close up shop and leave work. They were too big and I kept walking and I was ok and everything was ok, and then I saw them. The family. There was a flash of tracksuit colors, red, green, yellow and royal blue. The little girl saw me first. She pointed at me and started to let out a low scream, alerting her insane relations of my presence. Low and getting louder like a siren. I immediately ducked into the boutique in front of me. it had expensive clothes with turquoise and silver embedded into denim and everything cost thousands of euros. Through the plate glass window I saw the little girl. We locked eyes and I knew the family were coming. Coming for me. I kept pretending to shop and tried to act like she didn’t scare me, but she did. The girl paced in front of the entrance, ominously, staring into my eyes, waiting for me. the store would close soon, in maybe 6 minutes. She had the time to spare. I didn’t see her brothers yet. I didn’t see anything but the cold, steely hatred in her eyes. I didn’t see anything but her stalking me and a belt that cost a thousand euros. Well, it was a really nice belt. The saleswoman noticed the girl standing outside and marched out to confront her. They seemed to know each other. They started arguing and just then, I saw a back entrance to the store, behind a curtain, by where they kept their overstock. The door was open. As the little girl and the saleswoman screamed at each other in French, I made my escape. I ran. I ran so hard, all my cardio training in the last year since Dancing with the Stars paying off in spades. I saw no one behind me. The perfume rose off my body and slammed into my nostrils and I ran and I finally made it to my hotel room and I actually collapsed inside my door, sliding down against it, like a heroine in a Lifetime movie. I didn’t leave my hotel room again in Cannes. I stayed in. Smelling like a Rose.