PSL: Pumpkin spice for life

Eric Vasquez , Entertainment Editor

It started with a sniff. A whiff of a department store candle sometime between my search for a peacoat and a beanie that wouldn’t make me look like an old-timey burglar or an elf really into Fleet Foxes.

It was different, a scent of something else that at once reminded me of everything autumn. I knew it wasn’t cinnamon; the cinnamon candle was in plain sight. It couldn’t have just been ginger, or ginger and honey, or ginger and sea salt, or ginger and lime or even ginger and sandalwood, they were all bottled up and placed to the side.

What I smelled was the olfactory embodiment of the entire fall season. I tracked the scent right to the cashier. She herself was wafting it into her own nose.

“Give me that!” I took the candle from her. She did not deserve to smell that smell. “What is this?” I asked, jamming my finger into the wax. She replied with massive irreverence, a droopy answer that told me she didn’t own a single pair of Uggs. “Uh, pumpkin spice?”

Pumpkin spice. The spice of pumpkin. Aromatique cucurbita. A smell like a warm oven and coffee mugs, like knit scarves, like red leaves and “Gilmore Girls.” I was hooked. I burned that candle in every room of the house. I petitioned for my church to trade it out with the incense. I made it my cologne. I got the toilet paper, the lotion and several tubes of pumpkin-spiced chapstick.

It was a revelation the day I found out it was more than a smell. Kylie Miller, the human embodiment of a Dillard’s magazine, was late to class one day. Thank God for whatever made her wake up late that day because she came into the classroom, Starbucks in hand. By this time my nose was SEAL Team Six-trained to smell pumpkin spice off anyone who had it in their dish soap, so when she popped the lid to fan her coffee, I jerked to attention like a stoner to a pot cookie. Nothing mattered, not even sociolinguistics. I had to know what it was.

Kylie wasn’t paying attention in class either, so I leaned over and asked what she was drinking. She was too involved with her phone to hear anything else, so I poked her. “Hey, what are you drinking?”

“Are you serious,” she said. She was disgusted. “This is a PSL.”

I watched her take a drink of the smell I worshiped for weeks. I asked if it tasted like pumpkin spice. She LOL’ed. “Dude, this is the only thing that truly is pumpkin spiced.”

I wanted to ask her for a taste, but my shame in thinking pumpkin spice was just a smell kept me slouched in my desk.

I skipped my next class and went straight to Starbucks. I practiced saying my order in line, going for a rhythm that would sound like I had ordered a thousand of these. I even brought my MacBook to make sure the barista knew I was serious. When I got to the counter I said my order with force, said it with a twinge of addiction and a final upward intonation.

For effect, I didn’t even look the barista in the eye. I looked at the menu and said, “Um, Can I have a PSL?” She looked me over, squinted her eyes a bit. I thought I was found out, but something about me checked out and she deemed me worthy, asked what size I wanted. “Venti!” I took my drink to a table and stared at it, already drunk on the smell. I didn’t know what to expect, so I called in sick to work just in case I got too high or knocked out from ecstasy.

It was beautiful, the swirl of whipped cream and the crushed pumpkin sprinkled on top and the thick, first gulp that warmed my throat on the way down. If God farted, he would fart pumpkin spice. If God cried, he would cry pumpkin spice lattes.

After a week I swore I needed it to start the day. My mind just wasn’t right without a PSL in the morning. On PSLs, I was lightning quick. My speech became precise. Sentences like “I can’t even” confused the uninitiated, but my sisters and brothers in PSL knew exactly what I meant.

Before my first PSL, I worried about things like the exploitation of children in other countries in order to maintain America’s sugar demand. The scientific studies behind sugar intake linking to cancer and Alzheimer’s? Please, you just don’t forget your first PSL. Ever. Like, ever.

I’m going to tell you a secret. There’s a reason why pumpkin spice is so popular. There’s a reason why it’s in Oreos, ice cream and even some tampon brands. There’s something about it that strikes the soul this time of year. Some say our souls smell like pumpkin spice. I don’t know much about souls, but if I did, I would give up mine to have a pumpkin spice soul. Why? Because PSL means more than wanting a pumpkin spice latte, it means wanting a pumpkin spice life.