The Weight of Love

It was at the Cass McCombs concert when three young fans yelled “We love you!” as they crowded the front of the stage. Cass replied with a hushed “thank you” before he and his band continued their set. The second “We love you!” was met with a polite request by Cass to stop saying they loved him. By the third “We love you!” Cass was visibly upset and told them to stop or he would stop the show. Realizing what was at stake, the three young fans acquiesced their emotions. Cass finished his set to completion and was received by the audience with applause.

I can’t remember all the times I ever exclaimed “I love you!” in a cavalier fashion. I felt as if those three little words came from the bottom of my heart when I shouted them. Eventually I would return to my home and go about my daily life. I never asked myself what happened to those three little words: had they found a home with their intended recipient, or were they left to wither and fade at the very spot I left them. It never occurred to me that any recipient of my “I love you!” wouldn’t want it.

“I love you!”
Such a tiny declaration has the ability to start or stop the heart.

I think of what it means for me to tell someone “I love you.” My husband. My family. Friends I have and have known most of my life. The events in our lives that have bound us to one another. The times we have shared laughter, joy, life, pain, hurt, and loss. Within my circle of friends and family, we can say “I love you.” It’s real. There is a history; there is an investment. Our love has no mass yet it holds more gravity and energy than the intensity of a thousand stars bursting open.

I never thought if “I love you” was equally real when I was in a crowd and yelling adoration at an artist. I wouldn’t know what to do if a total stranger were to tell me “I love you.” Would I repeat the words back to the person purely out of embarrassment. Would I beg their pardon and ask if there was a case of mistaken identity. Would I be expected to say “Thank you” in return. What if I said nothing in response.

Throughout my life, in times both good and bad, I have weaved memories with music. As a teenager I felt like a stranger in a strange land, and then I listened to Doolittle by the Pixies. Trying to process what it meant to be a gay teenager, I watched “De-Luxe” by Lush on the television set in my family’s living room. The first guy I ever dated would sing Cocteau Twins songs to me as I drove us around town. We watched MTV’s 120 Minutes together, and I saw “Only Shallow” by My Bloody Valentine for the first time. Ten years (and many suitors) later I was living in New York City and walking through the city in tears as I listened to “Spain” by Kristin Hersh, trying to figure out how I could gain control again of my life. When I moved to the Bay Area I met a wonderful friend through our shared love of His Name Is Alive. These artists and their music saved me. To express that intensity of devotion to an artist, it’s not unlike telling a total stranger “I love you.” And then what?

My husband’s composure complements my intense personality. More often than not, he will need to remind me to “take it down.” He is friends with one-half of an indie darling band, and I am kept at an arm’s length from the other half due to my 20-minute questioning of his friend when giving him a ride home one evening. As if telling a stranger “I love you” isn’t strange enough, that weight of love is a cannonball with a personality like mine.

Five years ago I wanted to make my own perfume. My reasons were purely selfish, I simply wanted a fragrance to call my own. I invested both time and money to learn the art and science of perfumery. I opted to use natural materials in my perfume because the materials would create their own unique signature on my skin. I became friends with a perfumer who happened to live around the corner from my house. Occasionally she would let me order essential oils from her suppliers. Slowly I acquired a large collection of essential oils, CO2 extracts, and absolutes.

It wasn’t long before I began creating fragrances for friends. Not all the fragrances were particularly good, but they allowed me to work with materials that I might not otherwise have used for my own personal use. I was teaching myself how to become a perfumer. My pursuit for a fragrance quietly transformed into a laboratory of raw materials, test strips, pipettes, bottles, vials, labels, and carriers.

I would listen to music as I worked in my lab, and I could smell fragrance notes. This state of synesthesia didn’t happen with every song I heard, but when it did I found myself overwhelmed with scents that became fragrances. I created a collection of fragrances inspired by the artists I’ve spent the greater part of my life listening to.

I sought out federal and state permits for alcohol. I purchased insurance for perfume manufacturing and retail. To my lab I added a scale, glassware, atomizer spray bottles, rollerball bottles, labels, and shipping materials. And then I got to work creating perfume.

I launched my online store in December. On Valentine’s Day I set up a small table inside my friends’ booth at the Fremont Sunday Market. Soon I had my own booth at the market, and in April I had my first wholesale account with a boutique in Seattle. I don’t always have a multitude of customers on Sundays, but when I do I am talking about perfume with an energy that is sincere (and composed).

I tell my customers that my perfumes are inspired by musicians and bands. Most customers are not aware of the bands but they enjoy hearing about the connection between the music and the fragrances. I describe my perfumes – these fond affections – as love letters to the artists who music helped shape me and my world. The perfumes are ephemeral, as such things like fragrance tend to be, and they will fade in time as love is meant to do.

Through effort and intention I no longer feel the need to exclaim “I love you” as I’ve learned what I mean to say.

“I love your work and I thank you for all that you have given to me.”