On Smell

June 29, 2007 at 9:09 pm (in my head)

I pulled the scarf from my purse just now and sniffed. In style and color, it wasn’t right for my outfit, but I still grabbed it from the back of a chair this morning on my way out the door. During my last visit my mother handed it to me casually, then with nostalgia in her voice said, “it’s the first real silk scarf I ever bought…in college.” Sitting in a drawer it picked up the scent of some sachet or scented paper. From a recent wearing it has a note of her new perfume. But from years of being worn close to her skin, it smells mostly like her.

The sense of smell is perhaps the most under-appreciated of the five. Most of us spend the day using it and never really considering it. But I’ve long known that life would be far less rich without it.

As a child I went with my parents to visit their friends’ freshly painted house. It smelled so much like a medicine that had made me violently ill that I had to go sit on the curb across the street while my parents finished visiting. I was six. Sometimes when ALM goes away on business, I choose to sleep at his place, just for the smell. Faced with the permanent absence of a departed friend, I actually wept when I came across the rose-scented shower gel she was bathed in at the hospital. And when I started dancing again after college, it was in some small part (disgusting as it may sound) because I longed for the scent of a dance floor.

The former boyfriend of head injury infamy couldn’t smell after the accident. When he first bought a bottle of my shampoo for his place (typically a small source of joy for a girl just beginning a relationship), I was crestfallen to realize that he would never pick it up to open the cap, take a whiff, and think of me. Compared to the initial prognosis, a walking talking version of the boy was a miracle, but I don’t for a second doubt that his experiences will forever be flatter.

Faced with the option of losing either my sense of smell or a big toe, I think I’d keep my visceral memories and learn to balance with only 9.

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1 Comment

  1. fabulous girl said,

    the question is, if you have to lose one sense, isn’t smell the one you’d choose?

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