Phil Slattery's lyrical vignette about the scent of an absent lover.
He stretches back with his fingers interlocked behind his head and clears his mind. He tries to think of nothing, in hopes the aroma will trigger a remembrance. The scent is stronger now. It is sweet and gently relaxes him, but it is not the scent itself that relaxes him. It is a presence associated with it. It is a presence just out of sight, just behind a wisp of smoke. He recognizes the aroma; they are clove cigarettes. There is only one woman who smoked clove cigarettes and shared his bed: Christine, whom he knew seven years ago in Seattle.
Before he left earlier this evening, he had a hunch someone might call, but no one did. There were no messages on the answering machine when he came back. Still, he can almost feel her presence and hopes all is well with her. He wonders if she is thinking of him. He also thinks, God forbid, that if something is dreadfully wrong, it is not her ghost he feels. But, because they parted on good terms, that would be a friendly spirit.
He can almost feel the side of the bed sag slightly under her weight as she sits quietly watching him; he can almost see her long, silky blonde hair flowing over her shoulders; he can almost feel the delicate pressure of her pouty lips against his. Safe in her warm, comforting presence, he falls asleep quickly, hoping that in the morning, unlike a dozen other times, he will not forget to look for his old address book and maybe send her a letter.
As he drifts off, he wonders who she found to replace him, if she has kids, if she is happy. He thinks of the first and last times they made love and if, by some wild twist of fate, they might make love again. But she needed something more, as she put it, and now Quinn sleeps alone once again, with no new prospects on the horizon. Quinn knew what she had meant, but, until now, he never felt it as deep inside as she must have.