Joined at the Heart · Writers Write

Dead Man’s Cologne

Yesterday, Coco played violin in a side-by-side, the San Antonio Youth Orchestra and the San Antonio Symphony. I had just settled into my seat, when I got a whiff that took me back to 1997. I was riding in a car through North Druid Hills on the outskirts of Atlanta, en route to Emory University. Beside me sat my friend and mentor, Lanny Naegelin, a meticulous dresser in a dark suit and a yellow tie. His cologne was recognizable, not overpowering.

I’ve heard the olfactory system moves a scent through the brain directly to the seat of memory, connecting a random woodsy undertone or a top note of citrus instantly to our emotions. Sitting in the concert hall, waiting for the event to begin, I turned to steal a look, hoping against reason to see a familiar face.

I didn’t know the man behind me, so I didn’t speak. But when the lights dimmed, and the music swelled, I closed my eyes and remembered my old friend. It was almost as good as being there.