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Homer Wells held Candy around her hips—to help her off the roof. They must have known it was precarious to kiss on top of the cider house; it was more dangerous for them on the ground. They were standing together, arms loosely around each other's waists—his chin touching her forehead (she was shaking her head, No, No, but just a little)—when they both became aware that the lights from Wally's room were out. They leaned against each other as they walked to the cider house, the tall grass clutching at their legs.
They were careful not to let the screen door bang. Who could have heard it? They preferred the darkness; because they did not reach for the light switch in the kitchen, they never came in contact with the cider house rules that were tacked next to it. Only the palest flashes of the heat lightning showed them the way to the sleeping quarters, where the twin rows of iron beds stood with their harsh springs exposed—the old mattresses rolled in Army barracks fashion at the foot of each bed. They unrolled one.
It was a bed that had held many transients. The history of the dreams encountered upon that bed was rich. The small moan that caught in the back of Candy's throat was soft and difficult to hear above the iron screeching of the bed's rusted springs; the moan was as delicate in that fermented air as the fluttery touch of Candy's hands, lighting like butterflies upon Homer's shoulders, before he felt her hands grip him hard—her fingers sinking in as she held him tight. The moan that escaped her then was sharper than the grinding bed springs and nearly as loud as Homer's own sound. Oh, this boy whose crying had once been a legend upriver in Three Mile Falls—oh, how he could sound! †
Slumberhouse Rume has notes of bay, myrrh, labdanum and praline. Launched in early 2012 and originally carried at Indiescents.com, it has since been discontinued. I’m not sure a bottle of it can even be found anymore but I decided to review it anyway. Hopefully, my reason is obvious: it was simply too compelling a scent to pass up. My deepest thanks to Ann for sending me her sample.
†The Cider House Rules, copyright © 1985 by Garp Enterprises, Ltd. (William & Morrow Company, Inc., New York, 1985, pp. 379-380 & 381)
Images: From the movie database imdb.com, I found this photo of Charlize Theron playing the role of Candy Kendall in the 199 film version of The Cider House Rules. The film does no justice to Irving's complex and stunning novel, although it's still a good flick.
Bottle image of Slumberhouse Rume is from Fragrantica.com.
The above excerpt is from John Irving’s The Cider House Rules—a novel I’ve referenced on previous occasions and will no doubt draw upon again someday, as it’s a book I revere above all others, not only for the colossal beauty of its richly intricate story but because, in studying its characters, I see how one might learn to move through the world with dignity and compassion. Every conceivable form of love (and every side of love) is examined in this book, but the passage above pertains, of course, to the central love affair between Homer Wells, a young man who grew up in a Maine orphanage (under the fatherly care of Doctor Wilbur Larch, obstetrician, abortionist and overseer of the St. Clouds orphans) and Candy Kendall, the beautiful daughter of a lobsterman and steady girlfriend of Homer’s friend Wally Worthington.
Into the Cider House with Slumberhouse Rume
* * *
This past weekend, I received a package of perfume samples from my friend Ann (of Perfume Posse). After opening it, I returned the samples to their respective plastic bags and to the mailing envelope, as I was stepping out for the evening. When I came home, my husband and I sniffed the air: had someone been smoking a pipe in our house? I traced the aroma to the package and decided the smell must be the papier d’Armenie that Ann had sent me. Wow, strong stuff, I thought, removing it and taking it upstairs to use as a sachet at the deep bottom of a dresser drawer. Hours later (even the next day later), I kept smelling the tobacco-like odor coming from the package on my kitchen counter—and now I was really paying attention to it, for the air in the house had gotten warmer and this aroma was unsettling. It smelled not only of tobacco, but of smoky, winey apples: apples that have gotten fermented and vinegar-like around the edges. This smell was sweet, sour, dry and sticky all at once—a rustic smell, a sexual smell, and quite expansive. That’s when I took each sample out, one by one, and quickly realized that the aroma was coming from a single milliliter of perfume that was tagged with the name Slumberhouse Rume.
Slumberhouse is an indie perfume brand out of Portland, Oregon—and Rume, though it only launched last year, has already been discontinued. The perfumer chose to discontinue it, feeling it wasn’t up to snuff with his expectations. Perhaps that was a wise choice: Rume is not an easy scent to wear, but smelling it has been riveting. In his promotional material for Rume, Josh Lobb, perfumer and owner of the brand, described it as “Inspired by a room – the explorer’s hideaway. A burgundy/silver cologne with animalic pulse paired alongside a warm hush of clay, cola, filbert and hay. Rume is an idea, communicated through fragrance, of the desire to constantly seek out, experience and explore. An idea that contentedness is a poison and regret is the aftermath.”
I was dumbfounded when I found this description because, by then, I’d already decided I was going to write about Rume—as a room. The sleeping room in the cider house, on an August night in the 1940s, when it is deserted except for two people who have given permission to themselves to seek each other out. Rume is that room, with its intense air of tobacco, old apple cider, aged cedarwood and sex. (Sex, not because Rume smells indolic, but because there is a clove-like spice that adds heat to the fermented apple juice smell, and somehow this translates as sex to my brain). It is a linear perfume—much like commitment itself: unwavering and all-consuming.
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At Wally’s invitation, Homer has been living with him and his parents at their apple orchard on the Maine coast, learning the apple farming business. Because he also has been tagging along on Wally and Candy’s dates, he has become quite close with the couple: it’s why he has kept his feelings for Candy secret for a long time, and it’s also why, when these feelings are finally revealed—and Homer learns that Candy has unexpectedly been falling for him, too—they are held at bay, mostly. When Wally enlists in the Air Force (after Pearl Harbor is bombed), it’s harder for them to stifle their feelings, but they manage it, largely at Candy’s insistence, because, as she tells Homer, she has “grown up loving Wally” and expected to marry him—and she hadn’t foreseen falling in love with Homer too. But if she’s confused over who she really loves, that confusion starts to fall away when Wally’s long absence—coupled with his eagerness to go to war and his breezily impersonal letters home—leave her feeling abandoned. So, by the time we arrive at this point in the story—this turning point where Wally’s plane has been shot down over Burma and he has gone missing for over a month—there is little to keep Candy and Homer’s bayed up feelings from erupting.
May 8, 2013:
In the magical way that John Irving writes, lots of other things are happening as Candy Kendall and Homer Wells make love in the cider house, a dormitory-like cabin that is vacant except for in autumn, when it houses the migrant workers who pick the apples and also the machine they use (the press) to turn the unsellable apples into cider. The cider house, throughout Irving’s long tale, has a mood about it—and at another place in the book its aroma is described too. When it becomes the place where Candy and Homer embark on their course of love, the reader knows what kind of love this is: the kind that won’t ever find a cushy bed and a safe resting place. But the truth at the heart of this novel (expressed by the story’s other main character, Dr. Larch, just a beat or two later) is that no love relationship—romantic, parental or otherwise—is ever safe; yet it is our job to love, anyway.
Candy Kendall clung to Homer Wells—oh, how she clung!—as the breath left them both and stirred the otherwise unmoving air. And the trembling mice beneath the floor of the cider house stopped in their tracks between the cider house walls to listen to the lovers. The mice knew there was the owl to worry about, and the fox. But what animal was this whose sound was petrifying them? The owl does not hoot when it hunts, and the fox does not bark when it pounces. But what is this new animal? wondered the cider house mice—what new beast has charged and disturbed the air?
And is it safe? †