The Transitional Objects
For some people, the scent is everything
Sarah had fallen in love. John was unlike any of her previous swains. With them, she had always felt she was in control of her emotions, and she had played a game that was decorous, discreet and civilised. But she could not do as she liked with John. He stubbornly refused to comply with her expectations, and she could never predict what he would do next: he was impassive. Sarah became aware that there was a disjunction between how he really was, and how she saw him. He sported a ponytail (that was a problem) and was very tall. He was reasonably good-looking, and clever with it. In her eyes he was a cross between Adonis and Einstein, and she knew that she was being silly. For the very first time, love had made a fool of her: she knew it, and it made her uncomfortable.
Perhaps it had something to do with his smell. His skin had the perfume of honey, with maybe a hint of fruit cake or chocolate. She noticed that the scent clung to his clothes. Once she found herself burying her face in his jacket as it hung on a coat-hook in a restaurant. She hoped no-one saw.
Gradually, something very strange happened. Her passion for John gradually transferred to his clothes, and particularly the ones that had touched his naked skin. She became adept at pilfering. They often went to a local gym together, and she managed to extract his workout T-shirt from his sports bag when the changing room was deserted. Another day, he left his cap in her car. She went to watch him play football, and was given the sacred trust of guarding his holdall. That yielded a rich quarry: an old vest and running shorts, a pair of jogging bottoms. Later on, she even purloined his much-worn tweed jacket, and stuffed it into her capacious handbag. And the shoes! A brogue, a walking boot, an Adidas trainer. Somehow she thought that taking one of a pair wasn’t so bad: he still had the other one, after all. But it did make her feel like a naughty puppy at the teething stage.
Secretly, she carried her booty home piece by piece, and put it into her spare room. She assembled the clothes on a chair. The hat, the vest, the T-shirt, the jacket, the jogging bottoms, the shoes. John’s sweet, alluring smell filled the room. She took care to keep the door closed, to concentrate the honeyed tincture. When she opened the door, it made a “pop” like the cork in a bottle of port.
Sarah spent a lot of time in that room. Gradually, infinitesimally, she began to think less about John himself. After all, she had his essence, so there was no need now to yearn for the real thing. She began to fancy that the clothes were filling out somehow. They looked more like a person: sometimes, and when she half-closed her eyes and looked from the side, she could almost see his flesh filling the cloth. At any rate, it was worth risking a conversation with the clothes, as they knew all that their owner did. And so Sarah often sat there, breathing in the sweet air, murmuring little inconsequential remarks to which John replied sometimes. It was all very soothing. Perhaps love wasn’t so painful after all.