Smokey McSmokerson lives next door to us. That’s not her real name, its merely a moniker that we, in our flat, have given her. Well at least I don’t think its her real name. Stranger things have happened and it could well be that her parents, the McSmokersons, decided it was best to name their daughter so that her overall title has a lovely ring to it, in the same fashion as Dino Dini or Mario Monti, only less Italian. Or reasonable. I have no idea what her real name is, what her job is, what she’s like as a person or anything other than the one thing I see her do everyday. Our kitchen window looks out, rather inconveniently, into her back garden. It used to have a grotty net curtain that hung over it, but I decided I would prefer less privacy to a swathing of dirty grey over our cooking area. About three or four times a day, Smokey’s garden door opens, she strolls outside, sits on her stone step and has a cigarette. She does nothing else while having this cigarette. No playing with her phone, no reading of a book. Just smoking. She sits, stares back at her garden door, partly due, I presume, to her viewpoint being forced in that direction by the placing of the stone step, and she thinks and smokes.
Sometimes she looks directly at me while I do the washing up or cooking, wondering why I’m looking out into her garden as she smokes, interrupting her only bit of alone thinking time she has. This is the only impression she ever gets of me. We have never seen each other in the streets where we live, or outside of her garden and my kitchen. In her head all I probably ever do is cook food and wash dishes. When she does look at me, I immediately look away until she is staring absent mindedly back at her flat, at which point I stare at her again, wondering what’s going on in her head. She never looks sad, or happy. She just smokes. I like to assume she’s thinking about one of these things:
1. A distant far away land where everyone smokes all the time and is legal in all indoor areas. Children are handed cigarettes from the moment they are born and everyone quotes Gene Hackman in ‘Crimson Tide’ when he says ‘I don’t trust air I can’t see.’ National Smoking Day is a day where people smoke even more than normal and masks on airplanes supply oxygen and nicotine incase of a crash.
2. Whether or not my name is really Washy McWasherson, or Cooky McCookerson and whether or not my parents – the McCookersons or McWashersons – just had no taste in names. What I think about when I cook or wash up and whether its about a world where everyone washes dishes or cooks all the time.
3. How to take over the world.
4. Getting some wood and blocking up our kitchen window from the outside so that I can’t stare at her while she smokes a cigarette and me and L can stop shouting ‘Its Smokey! She’s back!’ whenever she appears.
But she might just be thinking ‘this is a lovely cigarette’ or about her work, or life or how inconvenient the design of the flat is that means we can look into her garden. Some days she smokes a lot more than others. Some days she doesn’t seem to appear at all. Though it could be that some days I wash up or cook more than normal and coincide exactly with her smoking and somedays I just don’t. Or it could be she is only able to smoke when someone is watching her. Maybe she is not a social smoker, but a professional model smoker who only smokes when it may promote the serenity of the activity to others.
One day I may actually meet her. In over a year of living here, we’ve never bumped into each other on the street near where we live. She’s never been the one that opens the door when I go next door for mislaid post. We have never attempted to wave or even pretend we have any interest in knowing each other beyond our regular awkward daily sessions in ignoring each other. I have thought about making little signs, or pictures to make some sort of contact. But then I often think that what if I she reciprocates with signs or pictures and I don’t like her pictures? Or signs. Or she says something mean about the way I wash dishes or cook food? What if her name is Smokey McSmokerson and I find it hard not to laugh at her whenever I see her from then on? It’s not worth the hassle really. So I’ll just keep staring at Smokey, a person who I have decided to entirely define by her regular habit and she can just assume I am a man who washes up a lot of dishes.
Today is No Smoking Day. I haven’t seen her once. Oddly, I feel really proud of her for this. Well done Smokey. Well done indeed.