I needed somewhere to store my things and I was given a chest of drawers. It fits into my room without any trouble and it has five drawers in it, two small and three larger. it is made of pinewood. I do not use it to store clothes in, but I do use it to store pens and pencils, writing paper and other items. It would be perfect, but it smells of cigarette smoke.
Nobody in my house smokes and I think that this is why the smell is so noticeable. At first it kept within the confines of the drawers and as if it were a genie, it only spiraled out to meet me when I opened them to put an object in or take it out. Slowly, though, it has begun to seep through the wood and out of the chest. It has begun to move across the carpet. The carpet is white and it has a pattern of boxes, each box containing a symbol. The symbols are in green and blue wool. It is hoovered every week along with the other carpets in the house, but it is grubby from constant use and the white has dulled into the colour of cigarette smoke, if it was to have a colour. I sit to write on the floor because I don’t have a desk, simply. It does not induce any zen-like calm. I can smell cigarettes now, when I sit to write. I wonder how many years its previous owner must have smoked for and with what veracity, in order to impregnate the wood so deeply. I won’t know who they were.
I think of them living alone in a house with sparse furniture, huddled up with their back against the chest, chain smoking and then stubbing them out at the last moment onto a tin lid, catching their nails occasionally on the rough rim. I hope they didn’t live alone, and am not sure that a single smoker could have accomplished such a stench.
Perhaps he had always smoked, and she had met him as she sucked impertinently at the open top of a straw whilst perched on a frayed faux-leather bar stool in some Glaswegian milk bar. Perhaps he had is collar up and a fag hingin’ oot of his mouth and perhaps he was almost irresistibly fashionable.
Or maybe, her cotton blouse was brushed from behind, forcing it downwards towards her skin, her sweat, and her goosebumps which rose from being so suddenly touched. Her assailant was perhaps a lady with a severe bob and a French fringe who was leaving a bar late one Saturday evening. Two women, quiet and strange, whose neighbours did not get invited to tea and Nice biscuits in case they glimpsed the chintzy throw on the double bed. Women whose nails yellowed with nicotine as they smoked one cigarette between them at bedtime; cigarettes lit by fellow staff in the thrum of the lunch room; cigarettes and bitter coffee on their tiny balcony, eyes peering down at the city below.
Or perhaps it was a teenager, who took up smoking before he managed to leave home, and, with the ingenuity of youth, blew the smoke directly into the open drawers, shutting them hastily to stop it escaping. Then, at the end of the summer, his parents converted their bedroom into the long-desired study, and the chest of drawers was taken to the scrap yard by a mutual friend with a fondness for the wife and a van full of other bits and pieces.
Where are they now, these indoor smokers? Banned, relegated to my drawers, now annoying me from the other side of a lag of time. It has a sweet, fading potency, and smothering it with other scents, the propriety of lavender sachets and scented drawer liners, seems unduly cruel.