It was rainy today, Sunday. At least here with us. It was cool and expansive when my partner aired the apartment after lunch. I'd already retired to bed, the same place I'd spent all of last week - with a high fever, aching limbs and bones. Completely well it was not yet, no, but on the mend, that's where I am.
Where was I...?
Ah well, rainy, cold and expansive Sunday.
Perfect for wearing a very special scent even in a sick bed, Tom Ford's Black Orchid.
My relationship to this fragrance is at least as divided as my attitude to today's weather - or my relationship to Bogotá.
Bogotá, Colombia's capital with a population of 7.18 million, is located at an altitude of over 2600 meters above sea level. And this has the consequence that it is always cool, mostly cloudy and often very rainy and windy there.
Bogotá, with emphasis on the á and not the first o. Bogotá, hate and love, joy and sorrow, happiness and unhappiness for me perfectly combined in a single city. Just like Black Orchid by Tom Ford.
Black Orchid starts out harsh, expansive, overwhelming, and unconventional for me. Like Bogotá, with its harsh climate, the expansive continuous rain, the overwhelming impressions when you first drive along the Séptima, Bogotá's 5th Avenue, and unconventional, like when you are served instant coffee in Bogotá, where Colombia is known for its excellent coffee cultivation.
Harsh and expansive because of the alcoholic note at the opening of the fragrance, which penetrates almost every crack of the room wall, paired with the black truffle, which comes across so overwhelming and unconventional. This is already joined at this point by lush ylang-ylang and slightly citrusy notes that remind me of the sumptuous desserts at Bogotá's top restaurants, followed by the slight citrusiness that you detect in coffee, the "tinto" as they tend to call it in Colombia.
At its heart, it remains lush, followed by high decadence and heaviness. As lush as Colombia's ubiquitous arequipe, a high-calorie caramel cream made with milk, cream and sugar. As decadent as Bogotá's luxurious malls, where this cream is sold at horrendous prices. A small keg for the price of an average monthly income. Runs. As hard as the lives of the workers, who have to earn their wages in a brutal way with exhausting and risky jobs.
There is melancholy, inertia and yet the inclination and desire to live luxuriously, the urge to get something from the arequipe cake with whipped cream and icing.
It gets easier when you leave the mall and get some of the floral notes in the city's perpetual spring, "la primavera entera". For despite the city's 2600-meter altitude and constant rain, Bogotá has a remarkable flora on display, due in no small part to the fact that Colombia is so outrageously close to the equator. Flowers of all colors and sizes, sweet and gorgeous, glorious and light as heaven.
To this, one may perceive woody notes in the heart of the fragrance just as in the heart of Bogotá. There is a whole neighborhood in Bogotá where carpentry follows carpentry. I detect this woody scent very subtly in Black Orchid as well. However, we do not stay in this neighborhood, but move on.
Meanwhile, it has become night and in the Zona T, the entertainment mile of Bogotá, we come to the base and the starting point of our imaginary tour of Colombia's capital. Here, hip bartenders mix us opulent drinks with vanilla and tonka bean. Bogotá's upper-class gentlemen wear patchouli and other woody aftershaves, while their ladies prefer balsamic and incense-heavy fine perfumes.
The night is still young and the party goes on into the wee hours. At Andrés, where you can drop as much cash in one night as an average-wage family man earns in three months. It's where you meet Colombia's high society. There, where I hate and love the city the most.
Black Orchid is the scent of Bogotá for me.
I love Bogotá, the place where I lived, grew up, became big. Bogotá is home to me, my mama's adopted home, the place that gives me goosebumps every evening when I see the sun, which shows itself around late afternoon, slowly setting over the city, back there, by the Andes. Bogotá is the feeling of attraction for me, the attraction towards the golden city, "El Dorado", as Bogotá's international airport is rightfully called.
That's what Black Orchid is for me, too. A piece of home, goosebumps, attraction, gold.
But I hate Bogotá, the place where I watched the gap between rich and poor widen. Bogotá is for me decadence, which seems to me almost unbearable, when I see how the upper class first dines in the Andrés and then celebrates and money seems to play no role - and the family doctor of my mom earns as much as others spend there in an evening. Bogotá is expansive to me when I imagine the neighborhood where I lived being guarded by security and our house fenced in with barbed wire. Expansive - and off-putting. Bogotá is harsh for me because of the weather, the terrible traffic, the constant congestion, and the disfuctional public transportation.
Black Orchid is that for me, too. Decadence in a bottle, sheer unbearable at times, expansive and harsh.
And yet I love Bogotá, the place that triggers longing in me when I can't be there. The place that moves me to tears every time the plane accelerates and takes off, and the lights and streets of Bogotá grow smaller and more insignificant below me. The place that causes melancholy in me because I miss Colombia and my mama there so much. And the place that causes feelings of happiness and serenity in me when I get off the plane in El Dorado and hear "Bienvenidos al aeropuerto internacional de El Dorado de Bogotá" over the announcements in the airport.
That's Black Orchid for me, too. Longing, emotion, melancholy, happiness and serenity.
And every single time I land in Bogotá, my mom is waiting there, takes me in her arms and I hold her, even at 33 years old. Then she says "Bienvenido a casa, welcome home" and I feel complete contentment and security.
And that's what Black Orchid is to me, too. Like a loving hug, the feeling of contentment and security.
Only one thing Black Orchid will never be.
A replacement for my endless love-hate relationship with Bogotá