“So Im back, to the velvet underground
Back to the floor, that I love
To a room with some lace and paper flowers
Back to the gypsy that I was
To the gypsy… that I was
And it all comes down to you
Well, you know that it does
Well, lightning strikes, maybe once, maybe twice
Ah, and it lights up the night”
–From “Gypsy,” Fleetwood Mac
The last time Socs slept over at my house, we walked to the Jamaican Jerk Hut the next morning for some wholesome, spicy food to cure our hangovers. We had debauched the night away to the point where any restaurant genteel enough to serve what is known as “brunch” would probably have turned us away, and besides, we were too far gone for a sip of mimosa and a few bites of a precious goat cheese omelet to do us any good. Hangovers or not, though, it was a perfect September morning, all mellow sunshine and and that deep, clear blue sky that only happens in September. We were hurting, but happy. And on the way there, we realized that once again, we had inadvertently dressed like crazy lesbian twins from some other dimension.
I’d been up with the birds after about an hour’s sleep for an early waitressing shift from which I’d magically gotten to leave early, so I was dressed for some serious egg-slinging: a swirly low-cut black cotton babydoll dress and black lace-up Doc Martens. This outfit was good for waiting tables because the dress was cute and cleavage-y enough to make up for the comfortably butch footwear; customers were never sure which part of my outfit they should be judging. Socs was wearing a silky black pantsuit, the top of which was held up by the thinnest of halter strings. She had black high heels that clicked an aimless rhythm on the sidewalk and breasts that bounced loosely along inside her top a second or two later. Socs loves her boobs and hates bras. Her naughty jiggle is her most constant fashion accessory. I admire her guts, but my cheeks get red just thinking about accidentally forgetting to wear a bra in public. We both had crazy flyaway hair and no makeup and the kind of big, I-can’t-believe-I’m-still-alive smiles that suggested the worst was yet to come as far as our hangovers were concerned.
“Whoa, we look like creeps,” Socs said as another group of people on the street stared openly in our wake. We laughed. Being creepy, we have always agreed, is not only part and parcel of being free, but some of the best fun anyone can have.
Over fresh, homemade ginger beer and paper plates full of spicy rice and vegetables and plantains, Socs told me how, a few weeks back, she’d holed up in her Brooklyn apartment for four days straight, smoking pot on her fire escape, playing and rewinding a tape of Fleetwood Mac’s song “Gypsy,” and having epiphanies. I cracked up. This was, at least to me, the exact kind of behavior that made Socs Socs. It was also the exact kind of behavior that I normally held myself back from, or at least held myself back from telling people about. Socs and I share a birthday and have spent years marveling over how similar, yet different we are. And one of the major differences has always been that she has no problem doing and talking about the kind of things I normally suppress. This dynamic is such that for every hour we spend in perfect mirror-image understanding, there’s another where we drive each other absolutely nuts with frustration. Sometimes she thinks I’m a dogmatic, manipulative prig; sometimes I think she is an outright menace to herself and society. This time, though, I just wanted to hear about her Stevie Nicks epiphanies. My Fleetwood Mac song was always “Go Your Own Way.” In my characteristic literal-mindedness, its words pointed out a possible alternative to my long lists of various petty rules and scores to keep. But Socs got “Gypsy.” I was jealous.
Of course she couldn’t sum it up in a sentence after having spent four days listening to it on repeat. Its meaning had already been internalized, it was more like a meditation mantra or a black-magic sigil she’d put all of her energy into and then forgotten. After she went back to New York, I listened to “Gypsy” myself, trying to hear what she’d been listening to.
First epiphany was from the “lightning strikes, maybe once, maybe twice” part: Oh! Things happen that put your life into upheaval and it’s a natural part of being alive that you need to roll with.
The second thing I got from the song was an unanswerable question as to whether the “you” that it all comes down to is the gypsy herself or an outside person. I liked to think it was the first option, really saying that she knows it all comes down to her when lightning strikes, because–well, this has been my experience of life. It does.
Epiphany three was from the first verse of the song, about being “back to the velvet underground.” I equated this with the kinda-scary but kinda-good feeling of suddenly having a huge amount of space after someone close leaves your life. And something about embracing it because that feeling is you at your most essential.
The last epiphany I had before I gave up on this exercise was that Stevie Nicks probably wrote it as a “fuck you, you will always love me even after I’m long gone” kind of song dedicated to one of her incestuous bandmates and that, historically at least, it had about as much to do with freedom as the song “Amie” by the Pure Prairie League has to do with love. But that’s me; petty and dogmatic.
I was thinking about this today, the time Socs listened to “Gypsy” for four days straight, and got the sudden urge to put on a spray from my mostly-unused bottle of Dana’s Tabu. My next thought was that I needed to send Socs some Tabu, because like the song “Gypsy,” Tabu had somehow become, to me, about her. The obvious associations with the name of the perfume and her propensity for wildness made me smile with gentle exasperation at myself, much like the time I dreamed I was at an all-you-can-eat buffet and woke up crying because I didn’t know what to put on my plate first. And I don’t know if she’d like Tabu at all. It’s kind of a tough customer.
At first, Tabu smells like someone was playing with a bunch of essential oils and added every single one into the same pot just to see what would happen. There’s a citrusy freshness, floral sweetness, a vanillic warmth, and a whole lot of headshoppy heavy-hitters: patchouli, amber, musk, oakmoss, sandalwood, and god knows what else. It smells like someone who’s been up to some serious witchy stuff knocked over the cabinet where all the raw materials and incense and oils and perfumes were stored. And mama, this is some strong stuff: raunchy and sexual, distinctive and distracting, deep and thick. I adore it for being balls-out, for refusing to compromise and smell like anything other than capital-P perfume. The spray cologne comes with the kind of old-fashioned sprayer that sends out a long, fine mist instead of an easily controlled squirt, and this is a fragrance where control is needed to avoid gassing yourself out of the house. For these reasons, it seems to be a fragrance intended to freak most people out. To my smug pleasure, I can wear Tabu well. It’s one of the times when having perfume-eating skin works in my favor. Sprayed on the inside of my wrist, I can tame Tabu into a milky, soothing amber with just a little powdered patchouli dust in the space of an hour.
This will be my fragrance for when I want to spray a little Socs on, a gypsy potion to remind me that regardless of how many times lightning strikes, I will always have myself, the only person I really need to answer to. Maybe in exchange for all she has done for me, I will help Socs find a perfume that is like spraying some starchy old me on her wrists, some fussy, powdery number that will keep her safe from her own adventures. That settles it. The next time Socs sleeps over, I’m chasing her around with my L’Heure Bleue.
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