18 sept. 2006

I've never smoked, and I've always hated the smell of cigarette smoke.

When I was 14 or 15, however, I once stood at some kind of outdoor event at a park, on a summer evening. (A musical performance or a play, I don't remember what.) A few feet away from me stood a woman in her late 20s or early 30s. She was fairly short and wore little make-up, and seemed quite absorbed in the performance, whatever it was. She was smoking cigarette after cigarette, and I made no attempt to move away. When I got home, of course, my shirt smelled strongly of smoke, which would have ordinarily been repulsive to me, but I slept in that shirt that night. Its repulsiveness, in fact, contributed to the erotic charge I felt all night long, associated as it was with this particular woman I had been standing next to for maybe an hour, and who probably was not even aware of my presence.

Eroticism, for me, has often had that double movement of presence and absence, of attraction and repulsion, and of metonymic displacement. Without that smell there would have been no experience to be remembered now. I haven't thought of it for years.