December 26, 1921 [The Centaurs]



I committed to a Christmas extravagance for my wife: Coco Chanel's parfum No. 5--the "artificial perfume," as Chanel put it, not an evocation of flowers but "a composition." My wife carried a tiny drop of it on her neck, and in the cinema I could tell it was there with us, as I watched a Winsor McCay animation, in which centaurs slowly paraded, their secret lives uncertainly understood. But I am in no mood to complain about the need for better animated pictures. The perfume mingled with the simply drawn creatures passing through the intricate birches and rocks, from nubile youth to bespectacled grandma, bearded grandpa, and coltish child, and they seemed closer to me than any "living" film moment, their smell as artificial as a technical/chemical feat--but also as alluring, the faint yet insistent notes playing in the distance, in my nostrils, on the screen.

I will have to remind my wife to scrub with plain soap before we go to the movies. Otherwise, I'm definitely seeing--or hearing, or smelling--things.

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