Friday, 23 February 2018

No scents

About this time last year, I was collapsing back into bed on a daily basis.  I had what I presume to be a variation on the flu that was going around.  (I hasten to add, I'd had my shot.)  I heard a lot about this virus (or whatever it was) that winter and into the spring, as it hit friends and acquaintances.  A strangely debilitating bug, that didn't seem as bad as it was, presenting a new symptom each day.  Every time I swore I was getting better, I was felled by a sore throat, then, the next day, a racking cough, followed by congestion,  then shakes...

For nearly two weeks, I didn't have the energy for much more than television - a depressing prospect in the daytime.  I was never more grateful for the Turner Classic Movie channel, and their annual "31 Days of Oscar". Last winter, they picked films with wins and nominations in rather esoteric categories, such as Best Song or Best Makeup, so I saw a raft of films I wouldn't ordinarily have seen.

When my strength finally returned, I had a lot of catching up to do.  As a result, it wasn't until last April until I noticed that my sense of smell had vanished.

Generally, the loss of a sense is unmistakable.  You notice instantly if you lose your sight or hearing.  Loss of touch is something else missed the moment it happens.  Losing the sense of taste will register pretty damn quick.  But the sense of smell?  That can drift away unheeded.

My first clear memory of the realization occurred on elder daughter's birthday.  She adores scented candles and gleefully brought them to me to sniff.  I don't recall being surprised when I couldn't smell them, so I must have been faintly aware of the absence of scents.  I had continued to be somewhat congested since my illness.

Then May came, and I couldn't smell the lilac.

Smell is connected with taste, and I began to realize that I wasn't always aware of spices the way I had been, but on the whole, I could taste, and still can.

I'm wondering now if my brain is filling in the gaps, the way you can "hear" a familiar song that's far away, or covered by other noise.

As the year has progressed,  I've come to a fuller and sadder comprehension.  I can't smell the sea - once a recurring joy of returning to Victoria, and now poignantly ironic now I've returned for good.

All roses are fragrance-free.  At Christmas, the lingering odors of tourti√®re, mandarin oranges, and evergreens do not linger for me. The aroma of toast, baking bread and cookies -- gone.  The Resident Fan Boy has given up the ritual of bringing me the bag of freshly ground coffee when it's first opened; there's no longer any point.  I can't smell the rain on the streets - I only know that the outside air is odorless, while indoor air smells vaguely metallic.

When I use a powerful cleanser, or bleach, I feel only a strange tightening in my nostrils.  I worry a little about not smelling smoke, and find myself paying extra attention to personal and domestic cleanliness, because visual clues are all I have now.

Mostly though, I feel a resigned sense of no scents.

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