Oh, but we were young,
and it was so long ago.
We couldn’t have imagined that smoking
would ever be banned from all public places, even bars.
You and bars went together, and later, we went together to bars.
The day I knew I loved you I was in a bar
with a forgotten, forgettable boyfriend,
and you were a stranger holding a pool cue.
I was certain you’d seen me, just as I’d seen you.
I stepped into a crystal pause;
the cleanest place I’ve ever been,
and your spirit was there with me,
and yet, a touch of your sweat,
a clean cotton shirt half drenched in smoke,
a hint of building site in the hair
and the breath of beer –
combined, they’re the essence of you.
Years of secret meetings followed.
We drank and smoked then drank some more.
We hid in dim places, and you drunkenly drove me home,
going slow to save us from harm, all the time knowing that although the drink-driving laws had not been formed, still it was wrong, and I knew that you drank because you
and yet, the cleanest place I ever went was wherever I went with you;
while our acts were irresponsible and you had a problem,
our love was pure.
After I called an end to our beautiful duplicity,
every time I passed a bar with an open door
I inhaled a synthetic form of your essence;
aside from memories it was all could find of you.
The years have passed and now patrons go outside to smoke.
The odour that seeped into the walls of and floors of bars
has evaporated or been painted away.
These days they smell only of alcohol and aftershave,
with the occasional addition of both clean and unwashed clothes.
I miss the old-time fragrance of you.
As cohabiting lovers age, their palettes mix,
the colours once so brightly daubed, fade to pastel hues,
their fragrance changes too, so if I met you now, my love,
would your perfume make me swoon the way it used to do,
or would it smell of family life;
of dinners, dog, and scented wife,
and would she smell of you?
And if we’d lived our lives as one, right up until today,
would the smell of smokey bars have made me feel that way,
and when the smoking ban was rightly brought to force,
would I, somewhere deep inside, still have felt the loss,
and, darling, would I notice that both your scent and mine
had grown together all those years, until they intertwined?
Written for The Daily Post #Fragrance
©Jane Paterson Basil