Saturday 15 June 2019

'The Good Smell' by Patricia Q. Bidar

No one ever talks about the good cigar smell. The aroma-once-removed. Just the way the smoke sets into clothing, then the room and the chairs and the carpeting. What a warm/leathery, sexy smell it is. That said, I hate the Snow King.

It’s only the cigar smell of his office that I like, clinging to the inflatable ball he sits on instead of a regular desk chair, the set of chunky dumbbells he keeps next to his desk, which no one doubts he can lift, even though no one has ever seen it. It’s all of a piece with the Snow King, who is also our HR Manager. Sure, he is conventionally handsome, with that sinewy neck, those eyes like fragments of sky. But where's the frisson there?

In contrast, Bobrov, my boss, seems to carry no scent. His crappy credenza is decorated with a smattering of Battlestar Galactica and Texas Rangers mementos. On his 30th birthday, Bobrov snuck out early and got himself a chest tattoo. Swallows, mermaids and roses; very Americana. Funny, since Bobrov is Russian, with a Russian’s core of malice and sorrow.

The Snow King has an open door policy, even though he flashes a glasshard glare at anyone who visits him. In contrast, Bobrov’s door is always shut. From time to time he will emerge, eyes red-rimmed.

My father would have said the Snow King treats Bobrov like a redheaded stepchild/ works him like a rented mule. Man, does that frost my cookies. In the afternoons, he slaves away in there at charts and flowcharts and projections. "Perks" to roll out to the staff over the course of the year, to foment unity and retention here.

The day we hear Bobrov weeping, everyone pretends not to hear. One by one, the HR staff leaves the office, via the tiny elevator just big enough for one. They crowd into the vestibule, talking about what food they will cook/television shows they will watch, when they get home.

Lost in his spreadsheets, The Snow King bounces regally in his marvelous-smelling den, right across the hall from me. Behind him in his bog window, the streetlights pop on with their familiar buzz.

He has to notice as I rest my ear against Bobrov’s door. Must see me slip inside, although the rest is known only to me and the slope-shouldered Russian, who it turns out smells of old papers and green onion shoots.

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