It’s hard to dance when there is a bad smell. Edward Thomas writes (in the couple of stanzas you quote): ‘That I may lose my way/And myself.’ I have long been puzzled by the phrase ‘lose myself’; it makes me become very literal minded: oh dear, when did you last see it? Losing my way is much easier to get to grips with; it happens a thousand times a day and might well happen during the writing of this short piece of prose but on the other hand as I have little idea of where I am going with it how would I recognise the losing of the way. If I set off for Paris and find myself in Florence then clearly something has gone wrong. Though in this case does the smell alert me: this doesn’t smell like Paris. There is always that handy medicinal standby, alcohol; a couple of drinks and I no longer care where I am. Florence will do very nicely, thank you. And, returning to the question of smell, with a couple of drinks inside me I can ignore the bad smell and get on with enjoying the dance; even losing myself in the wild gyrations.
I suppose what it might mean is losing some sort of burden; self as burden. What I might be able to do, Pamuk suggests, is to store bits of burden in a museum. Let’s call it the Museum of Innocence. Or why not call it the Museum of Guilt. Little bits of guilt displayed safely inside suitably strengthened glass cases. We don’t want that guilt getting out and interfering with the free flow of glorious dancing life, a life that is free of bad smells. Though the dilemma is that unless I manage to forget your introduction of this bad smell, with or without the help of alcohol, I have to come back to it. And it’s not helped by the fact that you don’t give any clues as to what the bad smell is actually like. Surely there cannot be only one bad smell in the world. Not forgetting that a bad smell for you might be heaven on earth for somebody else. Cannot you, like some refined sommelier (could your butler help you with this? I’m not sure whether you have an actual sommelier on your staff, but your butler, he might be from the nether regions of Glasgow, but I always thought he was an unusually helpful fellow) DESCRIBE the bad smell. Give me some clues as to the subtle notes that reach your nostrils.
Innocence surely does not smell at all or if it does it must be sweet; that’s what we say isn’t it: sweet innocence. Honey and meadow flowers; not the stuff that grows in the ditch you dug last year which is, by all accounts, already rather rank. Honeysuckle comes to mind; that perfume that pervades the evening air. But what about roses? Now it seems to me that roses can have a more dangerous range of smells. Smells that could lead one into dangerous situations: those assignations in a dark alleys; situations from which there is no escape.
Let’s be clear and remember that we have an investigation on our hands. The question is: what was that bad smell? Have courage even if it leads you to places you would rather not go.