A late afternoon like so many others in the open-plan office. His head felt empty, his eyes burned, and he decided to go home for the day. Many of his colleagues had already made this decision before him. He shut down his PC, picked up his backpack, and headed for the exit.
After a few steps, he could see her desk. She was still in place. Though he made a conspicuously unobtrusive effort to look around as casually as possible and say goodbye to one or the other, his attention was on her alone - on her long, naturally curly hair, her clever, kind doe eyes, and her features, which seemed simply perfect. Equally unsurprising was her perfectly coordinated outfit, though that hardly mattered to him.
Upon noticing her, his body began its usual barrage of unwanted stress reactions, unbidden. Sweaty palms. His heart inexplicably left his chest and slowly moved towards his carotid artery. His throat began to constrict, making him almost dizzy. The 50 or so aerobatic planes in his stomach had long since taken off and started flying. Rolls, spins, turns, loops - the full fucking works. Step by step he got closer to her desk, slowed down a bit, looked in her direction. She had noticed him, gave him her usual friendly smile and said, "Bye, see you tomorrow!" He took a deep breath, expelled the air he had just sucked in - and returned the greeting with a "Ciao!". At least he tried, for the word stuck in his throat. Quickly, he quickened his gait and left the building.
Once outside, his body forced him to stop just past the front door and take two big breaths. Shaking his head again and again, he continued on his way.
Just across the street there was a man-made pond surrounded by deciduous trees and benches. As he often did, he took a seat on a bench and stared out at the water. It wasn't really cool yet, although autumn had already brought out its palette of colors and changed the landscape. It had become late. The reddish evening sun had turned the old town facades more and more into silhouettes and reflected on the surface of the water. Beautiful it was here. Actually.
He glanced over at the café not far away. This was where he had wanted to take her for a coffee after work. Many times already. The outcome was always the same and coincided with today.
"I-DI-OT!" he groaned softly, hissing through closed teeth. "You're a goddamn fucking idiot!". Shaking his head, once more.
Lost in thought, he reached for the bottle in the inside pocket of his jacket. He loved this perfume, but he also knew that he always had to renew the scent towards the end of lunch, because Floriental only lasted about seven hours on his skin. Except for really hot summer days, he wore it basically all year round, day and night. It had been recommended to him by a female colleague at work with whom he got on well - women could wear this fragrance too. He twirled the deep red bottle in his right hand like a big, shapely hand-me-down from the beach. Fl-Oriental. Flower and Oriental. No, the scent was not flowery. Oriental was much more like it. He needed this scent and his opening. Now. Needed its calming effect, put two sprays on the back of his left hand.
Wow - overpowering as ever. The vanilla-tinged amber accord of labdanum reached his nose, as did the noble plum liqueur and the decidedly resinous note of incense. This opulent entry was successfully supported by the rather fresh and gentle pink pepper, which contributed a spicy note with ease.
Floriental was different. And yet felt familiar at first. Both. Indescribable.
Different from any scent he knew. "If you need an amber accord that sounds different, go for Floriental!" his colleague had advised him - and been right, absolutely. And that very opening achieved - perhaps because of the juicy, fruity plum liqueur? - had a calming effect on him. He knew - the scent would become much calmer in half an hour. The initially rather dry sandalwood would develop a gentle powderiness. The scent, which would then radiate much less, would become lighter, almost balsamic. Would wear it as it wore the scent.
He raised the back of his hand to his nose once more, inhaled the scent. Nodded. Got to his feet. Walked off.
"Tomorrow," he said to himself. "Tomorrow I'll ask her!"