Reflections from a Smoky Room

I’m sitting here, using my new Commonplace Book from ELS, and trying not to focus on the stench of wet-cigarette-butt smoke that permeates my new apartment.

It’s a beautiful place, full of old wood, original fixtures (door handles, kitchen sink, bathroom sink), and — to my mind — the piece de la resistance: built-in bookshelves.

I blame the bookshelves.

Oh, they’re not just any old bookshelves — they’re built in. They’re solid oak, stained a deep auburn. There are built-in drawers, too, below the floor-to-ceiling shelves, and a sort of angular closet, with a beveled, Victorian mirror attached to its front. The doors are fitted with glass, of course, and delightful brass handles adorn them, as well as the closet and drawers. And did I mention they are fittied into the huge formal living room, replete with windows that look upon the soon-to-be-in-bud oak trees below?

So, despite the wall of stale and fresh-from-the-lungs smoke I encountered when I entered through the kitchen door with the landlady two weeks ago, causing me to instantly cross this place off my list of possible homes, once I saw the bookshelves, I was hooked. They beckoned, and I wanted to give them a chance. Inviting, I could picture myself sitting and reading, happily, in that room. The room itself practically begged me to finish my next book there, promising me a peaceful and glorious spot in which to write my academic and literary works.

The remainder of the apartment comprises a large bedroom, again with a huge built-in closet, and hardwood floors. The bath boasts a clawfoot tub. There are high ceilings, oak dados and moldings, and large oak skirting boards. There are windows and more windows.

And though my neighbor smokes proverbially, she is the quietest person I have ever had for a neighbor. Only her smoke lets me know she is there at all. I doubt if she finds me as quiet a neighbor as she is, with me darting back and forth, and from room to room, over the squeaky floorboards.

Is there a life metaphor here? (You know how I love them.) My smoker’s cough has returned, albeit not as hefty as ten years ago, and also my post-nasal drip; my clothes subtly reek; I can’t seem to “get used to” the smell. It’s ever-present, and I see m guests’ noses wrinkle as well when they enter. They’re all non-smokers, too. Sure, I don’t want to come home to this smell; I don’t blame them for not wanting to be here, either.

In the Old Testament, I believe there was a time when the Israelites’ God led them trhough the desert, disguised as a cloud of smoke. In my own world — even in this blog — I allude to my belief that God is in everything, for God is everything; sunsets and storms, mountains and molehills, life and death. And we all want to be loved for who we are, nonsmoker or smoker, black or white, Muslim or Christian. We want people to look past our so-called faults.

Can I see past the smoke? Can I get around it? Should I get around it? Maybe the only way is through. Maybe Mr. Right is a smoker, and this is preparing me to live with him. Hmm.

What I do know is that my obsession with the smoke caused me to write this little blog in my new Moleskin journal, given to me by my new employers. Who knows what other works will be produced from this place? Who knows what magic will emanate from the cloud of smoke?

After all, isn’t much of life a matter of “smoke and mirrors”? I’ve got them both right here. Let the magic begin.

  1 comment for “Reflections from a Smoky Room

  1. January 13, 2011 at 09:06

    Febreze…lots and lots of Febreze.

    I have to have hope that smoke will disseminate eventually. Maybe when spring hits and you can fly those windows open. The dry cleaners sure have it figured out. My coats always smell fresh no matter how many cigs I’ve smoked in them.

    I think there’s at least a lesson in there, somewhere. Something like, We can’t have it all. OR, There’s always a tradeoff. Whatever.

    You had choices, yet you chose the smoky abode. Lucky you to have the freedom to choose where you live, and have a roof over your head! (There’s my obligatory preachy moment, done and over with.) From the sound of it, I would have chosen that place, too. Bookshelves! Claw-foot tub!

    Thing is, because you’re a former smoker, the smell will affect you more than others. When I quit for that bit, the smell of smoke was nauseating. So nasty! Now that I’m back to old habits, I barely notice it. It’s amazing how that works. Probably because my smeller isn’t functioning at 100%…

    If there’s one important lesson you’ve taught me (of which there are many), it’s that the way you perceive a certain situation and embrace it is how it will ultimately affect your life. Let me break that down a bit. The smoke bothers you. So much so that you’ve dedicated blog space to it. I have to wonder. If you truly believed that the smoke wasn’t a bother, would you stop smelling it? Sure, once you enter the home the smell will be there (until fresh air and febreze kill it for good), but I have to think that once you’ve settled in for the night that the smell disappears. And, if it doesn’t, it’s because you are constantly thinking about it. If you smell hard enough, it will be there! I am a firm believer that if you dwell on the one bad thing in a sea of great things, that one bad thing will sink your ship. At least you have a claw-foot tub to float around in…

    On the flip side, this smell may be one of those things in life that drive us crazy, that we can’t just forget about. I’m dealing with that right now. Our copier at work makes this squealing noise, and I’ve spent the last two days printing thousands of pages of documents. It’s making me go insane. But only because noises like that are one of my things. If smoke is indeed one of those things, then good luck on ya.

    But I don’t think it is. So embrace all of the wonderful things about your apartment, forget about that smoke smell, and maybe, just maybe, it will become an afterthought.

    We can only hope. Love you.

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