For my 36th birthday, Roach gave me a trip to the Nile.

Roach texted me from the Hong Kong airport. “I have
thirty minutes, what do you want?” My mind swam with duty-free dreams.

She handed me a big grin and a box right
before we had dinner. “Advanced happy birthday!” I found myself holding Un
Jardin sur le Nil: “This fragrance is the expression of an olfactory quest
through the island-gardens which arise from the Nile…A perfume of life and
light, sparkling and generous, where the scents of green mango, lotus flowers
and aromatic rushes mingle with incense and sycamore wood.” The first release in
the Hermes des Parfums-Jardins collection was Un Jardin en Mediterranee,
predominantly fig and cedar, beloved by myself and Marlon – who is no slouch in the scent
department himself, the only man I know who appreciates Penhaligon’s. (He would
likely go gaga over Pecksniff’s, and I could certainly not think of a more apt

Anyway, I digress. Un Jardin sur
le Nil is gentrified green mango. It is not the green mango I know; it’s been
prettied and primped, and will go nowhere near bagoong (fermented shrimp paste).
Underneath the mango runs a vanillic smokiness, just enough to prevent the
fragrance from souring. This composition, all fruity green freshness, makes me
think of Lilly Pulitzer and bronzer, a well-to-do woman in a bikini and matching
sequined pareo sauntering past the tacky souvenir shops of a sleepy beachside
town. It is the heart of a summer vacation: a cool drink, a time away, over too

There’s a stall in Greenbelt
Shopping Plaza that sells Egyptian souvenirs: djellabas printed with
hieroglyphs, fake faience necklaces, non-papyrus scrolls. This fragrance is
another Egypt; and for that, I am glad.