Do you smell of the bookshop, or does the bookshop smell of you?

Walking to work this morning, splashing through the puddles collecting on the uneven pavement, I noticed a familiar smell. As I tried to place it, I was overtaken by a woman with long dark hair who I recognised as someone I worked with at Ottakar's last Christmas. The scent was of the bookshop, a smell that conjures up collections of new books, piles of boxes, missing orders and unbelievably long queues, but having not been 'behind the scenes' in the shop since 10th January, I am now uncertain as to whether the place always smelt like that, or if it was in fact 'her' smell which has happened to permeate the store and bury itself in my memory.

It was a pleasant smell – I am not especially olfactorially gifted and cannot break it down into details – but it was agreeable to my nose. Not overly sweet and cloying like cheap perfume, and nothing like the musk that came from the stock room, caused by its inhabitant's never-washed-but-always-worn tracksuit. Thinking of that smell still bring tears to my eyes.

I quickened my step to catch her up, but as I got within a few feet, just outside the bookshop, she was greeted by someone I didn't recognise who had approached from the opposite direction. I had begun to open my mouth, but snapped it shut as they both headed into the shop together. I wish I had stopped her to say good morning. There might have been a moment of awkwardness as it’s been three months since I left and I haven’t kept in touch, but it would have quickly passed and I would have smiled the rest of my way to work.

As it was, my next chance for conversation was with my employment agency rep, and she lost interest in me as a person the day that I was placed here. Now I am just a number on her spreadsheet, a generator of £2.81 per hour for her company.