At 13.45 on Thursday, 3 December 2009, I paused in the cool, dark entryway to the house of those who once ran the Inquisition; the place I'd once worked cataloguing books old and new. A place of sanctuary from the hustle and bustle only feet away. A home away from home, and the home of some of those clerics dear to me who will be filling the sanctuary at my funeral one day.
But today wasn't about the Church, or religion, or anything to do with the clergy.
This moment was about coming home to myself.
I opened my rucksack and took out the box I knew I was going to buy the moment I walked into Boots. The plastic crinkled as I ripped it off, and I stroked the familiar, almost velvety box I hadn't owned in well over a year, before opening it and pulling out the bottle that fit perfectly into my hand.
I opened it, sprayed some on my wrist and at the base of my throat, then put the bottle away.
I rubbed my wrists together and inhaled deeply, revelling in the sharp, citrusy top notes that would soon fade into the warm, woody, spicy, rich heart notes that I identify as my signature. A scent I love even 10 hours later when only the base notes of vanilla and musk are left. And suddenly, for the first time in a long time, I was back.
Which? Calvin Klein Obsession. A classic, oriental amber scent (ironically, the same family as my mother's Estee Lauder Ciara, which I hated). For those who are interested, here's the composition:
Top notes: green, mandarin orange, peach, basil, bergamot and lemon.
Heart notes: spices, coriander, sandalwood, orange blossom, jasmine, oakmoss, cedar and rose.
Base notes: amber, musk, civet, vanilla, vetiver and incense.
In 2004, I decided I wanted a signature scent. I knew that mostly citrus would make me smell like a cat's litter box; I'm not floral by nature; I love rich, oriental scents - sandalwood was an absolute must in anything I was looking for; in fact, I wanted it as a base note, which was why I nixed Obsession when I was hunting online.
In the end, I knew I had to just go to Boots and Debenhams and run down the list. Hugo Boss Deep Red was going to be a top choice, till I realised that it reminded me of strawberry jam, with the sandalwood base note nowhere to be seen.
But I kept coming back to Obsession, which I loved when I spritzed it in the air. Finally, I gave in and sprayed it on my wrist. As the top notes faded, I fell in love with the perfect marriage of scent and skin.
On 11 September 2004, it became my scent, the one that at least one man will remember me by. I was never without a bottle until 2007, when suddenly, I just stopped buying it. I stopped wearing lippy to work too.
As a perceptive practitioner put it so well all those weeks ago, "What is someone like you doing here?" Then answered her own question: "Hiding."
The abandonment of lippy and a scent that is thoroughly me would seem to confirm that - both make me noticed and remembered; to stop using one, let alone both, is an unequivocal "Please don't look at me."
No longer. Look at me. I'm real. You, be real. And if you're one of my pack, you can bet I'll be keeping YOU real.
Look out, world, I'm back with an obsession.