Oliva Fitzsimons

Simple Home Economics

Oliva Fitzsimons

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We were suckers for all that crap back then, loved perfume. Dabbed it behind our ears, doused those clavicle bones, spritzed our slender wrists, sprayed it through bouncy beautiful hair, behind our knees. Like who the fuck ever smelt there and remarked on the seductive bouquet before licking our sweaty glutes?  No one any of us knew. 

Yet even now, so long after the dusk, we always get a rush finding glossy women’s magazines, idling on dusty shelves, or stacked in piles in abandoned houses. We used to joke we were looking for advice; 10 tips on how to survive the apocalypse! Get what you want in bed without guilt! What to wear now (as the world falls apart) spring florals or summer brights?

We rifle through the pages, feeling for the familiar heaviness which marks out the fragrance samplers, stuck on with globby glue. No matter how carefully we prise them off, we always rip the page behind, destroying the only readable article in the whole damn thing, simultaneously, accidentally, decapitating the evocative head of some random celebrity who probably never even smelt the stuff, but sold us all on the tuberose scent of success. Motherhood. Women in love. In control. In lust. In freedom. In thrall to the commercial nose of some European bloke in a perfume house. Who’s probably dead now, along with the other ninety three percent of the population.

We laughed a lot at first but survival isn’t pretty. Laughter runs out just like everything else. Turns out housewives are masters at no nonsense multi-tasking in the apocalypse. Its like the PTA with machetes and some of us want to do World Poetry Day. What works survives.

Simple home economics really.

We attract unsavoury humans, bears and anything deadly with a nose. We wish we had paid more attention to our kids endless TV shows about deadly animals. We never imagined scent would be so dangerous, but then a lot of things are that weren’t before. Half way light does funny tricks to your mind. Magic hour every day, all day. So little magic about it. Never sure what is up ahead. This world is rotting. We separate into more manageable categories. Middle aged women succumbing to ageing, moist and unsavoury, our own stench revealing us. Children carry barely any scent at all. Children can be like ghosts. All the pungent teenagers are long gone.

We miss the dark. Dusk has monsters of its own. We all squint. Probably going blind. Interdisciplinary knowledge remains essential, because the phenomena and challenges of everyday life are not typically one-dimensional. We are running out of places to hide.

We stumble wary upon a picture book house, all blooming roses and ivy cottage garden, teeter inside and find a rustic kitchen. In a sea blue ceramic dish lies Pears soap, barely used, the letters still visible, and you trace my rough fingertips over the embossed outlines and wash my hands and body again and again just to pretend. ‘Let’s have coffee before we pick the kids up’, some one says and we all laugh. You start to weep.

Their laundry room has folded dinosaur sheets, in sharp contrast red and white, covered in comic little t-rex’s and happy friendly brontosauruses and we long to make that single bed so often cursed.

We can’t stay in that precious cloying house a moment longer but before leaving we force ourselves to search the mother’s bathroom cupboards and find an almost empty bottle of old perfume. Was she just like us? Did we smell the same, our molecules reacting perfectly to the aroma, or did we just long to escape? Maybe she actually owned the finely draped clothes, expensive shoes and lifestyle that we just aped. We don’t even bother to check. We’re the luxury 7% now. Survivors.

Safer, later, we get the chance to rub a tiny drop on wrists, napes of neck, under hair lines. Close eyes, sniff, transport ourselves away to last year. Comfort, small hands around neck, settled momentarily before they flip themselves from our grasp and go running off to whatever game they were playing. It smells like domestic bliss, mundane life with all its little disappointments and small victories. It smells like routine, and grocery shopping, and dinner on the table, and wash your hands, and love. We didn’t know the smell of love would linger in the dusk. We should have though, it’s simple home economics really.

Oliva Fitzsimons

Olivia Fitzsimons is a northerner living in Greystones, County Wicklow. Her flash fiction has appeared/forthcoming in the Honest Ulsterman, Crannog, Boyne Berries, Cabinet of Heed, The Bangor Literary Review, National Flash Fiction Day Journal, Solidalgo, FlashBack Fiction and Deracine. She was shortlisted for the Sunday Business Post/Penguin Short Story Prize 2017 and long-listed for the Fish Short Story Prize 2018. Her flash ‘We Don’t Understand The Machines We Have Created,’ was shortlisted for the Retreat West Flash Fiction Prize in 2017 and will be published in their Anthology, ‘Impermanent Facts’, later this year. Olivia was lucky enough to be selected for the Words Ireland/Wicklow County Council Arts Mentee Scheme 2018 with author Niamh Boyce as her mentor. She is the recipient of a 2018 Wicklow County Council Arts Bursary for a week long residency at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre and one to one mentorship with Nuala O’Connor. She is currently working on a story collection and first novel.

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