I must have od’d on perfume this past month: I have begun to dream in fragrance – a new and faintly disconcerting experience, although it has the makings of an exciting adventure. Last night I was awoken by a powerful scent of sweet hot just-about-to-singe pineapple meringue that hit me as shrilly and disturbingly as any alarm call. Of its dream context I can remember nothing but, my word, the impact was massive. All my animal sense of danger on electric alert I lurched into the kitchen to find nothing more than an cold and empty oven, a scoured cake tin – and only the bleak smell of a London February at two o’clock in the morning: a whiff of soap, grubby rain and cold hot water bottles.
Preceding this was what I’ll call the Warner Brothers dream: what seemed to be an entire imaginary movie in lush 1940’s style but shot in scent rather than colour or 3D or what have you. The leading lady was a kind of Stanwyck / Bacall / Bette Davis amalgam but defined and described not by face, dialogue, voice or character; rather by clouds of mauve, magenta and violet perfume which emoted and vibrated like a symphony, wordless but nonetheless explicit – Apres L’Ondee, Teint de Neige, Iris de Nuit, Jasmin Imperatrice Eugenie; waves of stocks, sweet pea, heliotrope and lilac underlaid with vanilla, tonka and musk. A romantic melodrama, evidently; just about coherent through familiarity with the genre and the medium, but the plot line was as challenging as adapting to a new language. Strange, when we so frequently and loosely talk of fragrance as being the stuff of dreams: when it actually becomes so there is the risk of getting lost and left behind.
I can see that this all kind of ties in with my synaesthetic tendencies; and I have always dreamed profusely, and in colour rather than black and white. What puzzles me about this new development is this: habitually it is the tiny almost unnoticed details of my day which appear in that night’s dreams and are given the full Dali treatment – a note to the milkman, someone’s name, a tin of paint, the washing machine filter – take on exaggerated and grotesque significance. Whereas things with which I am preoccupied, or by which I am delighted or shocked rarely put in an appearance. I almost never dream about horrors in the news, for instance. I learned as a child to think about those things I wished to avoid in sleep just before dropping off, thus infallibly precluding nightmares later.
Yet my life is soaked and permeated by scent: maybe I’m starting to take it for granted? Those with thoughts on or experience of this phenomenon please write in.
Image from wikimediacommons