Scent & Sensibility

October 9, 2006

For the past year, I have been trading sporadic, yet suggestive glances with a certain stranger in my building; and, yesterday morning, we spoke.

I was walking toward my bicycle, he was pumping up the tires in his – quite feverishly, I might add.  There were enthusiastic hellos; I walked on and then proceeded to unbolt my bike in unusually slow motion.  About five minutes later, he pushed his past mine; and I seized the moment, boldly inquiring something bicycle related.

The conversation did not stray from this topic; and, later at the gym, I pondered the entire exchange for over an hour.  I decided that he must be single, because anybody who is not is, on a Sunday morning, either still under the duvet or changing nappies.  Then I looked around and amused myself with the thought that everyone in the room was releasing pent-up frustration in the name of exercise.

During an exceptionally long break on the chest press, I remembered that Ted Hughes had once sent a provocative note to a love interest (not his wife) that was duly returned with a single blade of freshly cut grass dipped in Dior perfume.  Hughes sent the note back, this time with another blade of grass beside hers.  Can you just die?

I started to plot.  I would tie a sprig of something to said stranger’s handlebars (no, not those handles!); and, if he was keen, I would find it reciprocated on mine the following day.  The upshot of this was that if he wasn’t interested, a) there would be no way for him to know for sure that it was me and b) I’d conclude he must be quite dull, unimaginative, and unromantic anyway.

Now, what to use.  A rose would be too obvious, overrated.  And besides, it shouldn’t be bought.  Some weeds from Hyde Park, perhaps?  Hmm, this was proving more difficult than I thought.

Once home and in the kitchen, the answer came.  Cilantro was too polarizing, and it would wilt into a mushy mess within hours.  Ditto dill.  Rosemary, on the other hand, could withstand palatial winds but wasn’t very pretty.  Chives – a viable contender, but there was the connection with onions.

Now basil, oh sweet basil!  So bright-eyed and bushy tailed.  It gets along with everything from San Marzano tomatoes to Berkshire strawberries.  What’s more, he’d have to bury his nose in it, deeply.

Then I thought about the negative domestic ramifications this little flight of fancy might have if our ensuing acquaintance lasted no longer than a pile of herbs forgotten in the fridge drawer.  And that Hugh’s mistress, not to mention Sylvia Plath, committed suicide.  One must think long and hard before messing around under one’s own roof.

I placed the pot of basil back on the windowsill, quietly.