"you smell like ketosis," my friend basil used to tell me, making a face as i lubed my body to greasy perfection.
ketosis, she explained, smelled like rotting fruit. anorexic women, she said, emitted this smell from their emaciated bodies. basil had learned this in a science class at winona cotter high school. i wasn't anorexic. i had a meal plan. and every holiday i received at least three plastic bottles of ketosis.
basil favored the natural smell of an armpit after basketball practice. she considered me "girly" which is more of a testament to her own non-girly nature. basil considered any woman who was not dressed in a combination of mesh and nylon to be fragile and prissy.
basil was harsh and hot-headed, smart and controversial. she inspired varying degrees of hatred from almost everyone but me. she was a horror behind the wheel, and didn't seem to understand the scientific ramification of an escort versus a semi.
basil was my only friend because i met her on the second day of school and the entire thing completely taxed my ability to make other friends. and she had one other friend besides me, a woman named newman, whom basil bequeathed to to me when she decided to transfer to st. ben's after freshman year. by then the entire basketball team wanted to one-by-one punch her in the face; the boys in ireland hall had banned her from certain parties.
so newman and i forged a desperation friendship, deciding we would hang out with each other and figure out why later. newman was quirky, with a dry sense of humor. hard working. a little socially awkward. very specific. sophomore year she came to me with a complaint about her roommate:
"tracy is wearing plumeria," newman said. "i friggin' hate plumeria. the smell makes me sick. i have to tell her she can't wear it anymore."
in those days, people were pretty loyal to their shade of bath & body works. this seemed like a conversation with one roommate that would result in weekly counciling with the resident advisor and the backlash of the 40 other women sharing our floor who would eventually hear about the confrontation in the study lounge or while waiting to shower. you can't just, like, tell someone to stop wearing plumeria just because they share a bunk bed with you. this injustice would cause some serious chaffing.
when tracy would leave the room, newman would scrunch her nose and say, "do you smell that? seriously, i'm getting a headache."
i didn't notice.
newman's hate for plumeria had psychotic side effects. plumeria brought out her inner edgar allen poe. by the time we had moved into a house on fairview ave., she could pinpoint plumeria pockets wafting from women in her education classes; she could detect it in the cafeteria and library. it went unsaid that none of her five roommates should even consider a dollop of plumeria, let alone sample it at the mall of america. let me tell you: in the late 90s you would be hard pressed to take a pack of six women and not find at least one drenched in plumeria.
plumeria was a pretty popular gift in those days. nothing said "merry christmas, i don't know you very well" like a bottle of plumeria. i got an eight ouncer from one of oneniner's sisters. i didn't tell newman; i squirreled way the bottle in my bedroom far from the freakish strength of her nose. i didn't wear it, though. not even in river falls, wisconsin for a track meet. not even when i was home for thanksgiving. i was scared to even open the bottle, even though i liked ketosis.
newman moved out of the house after our junior year, to an apartment with her sister. we had been planning to ask her to move out anyway, because the bath & body works situation became other situations which gave birth to more situations and eventually she holed up in her bedroom with a case of diet coke and watched tv in her robe until the semester was over, coming into the livingroom to ask us to be quiet, or to please not do laundry anytime after the six o'clock news.
by then i'd started wearing plumeria. just to piss her off.