The following is based on a true story, although the ending has been fictionalised for dramatic effect.
A Blessing and a Curse
One thing I’ve always been known for is an exceptionally sharp sense of smell. I like to think of it as a gift. But like most gifts, such as being beautiful, well-endowed or super-smart, it can be both a blessing and a curse.
My sense of smell and love for wine, for example, are certainly a blessing. Allowing me to smell even the most subtle olfactory notes the average nose cannot. But with a little imagination, it’s easy to see how it may also be a curse. Let’s just say I’d rather pee my pants than enter a festival porta-potty at the end of the night.
My keen sense of smell has even saved a life! A few years ago, after my husband had an operation, I could smell ever so faintly that something was off and suggested he go in for a check-up. A dangerous complication had occurred and thanks to my nose, he was treated in time.
Bad smells aside, I have mostly enjoyed this gift, literally saving lives, warning me away from dodgy dishes or guiding me towards the best restaurants. That is, until I became pregnant.
Ever since this new life began growing inside me, suddenly my sense of smell turbocharged from Rottweiler level into superhuman. If it wasn’t for the nausea and exhaustion, I would have easily landed a job working for the police helping identify drug smugglers and murderers.
I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. I will smell you. I will find you.
Yet, the more my power grows, the less of a blessing it becomes. From one day to the next, my life transformed from bubbling brownies fresh out the oven, hot melted cheese oozing from a toastie, sexy cologne, sea spray and eucalyptus into a horrible, godforsaken curse…
During my first trimester, what with my intense food aversions and renamed all-day sickness, it felt like my head was stuck in a toilet or as if my London apartment had suddenly up and moved into the heart of a slum. Yes, that bad.
Even bad is an understatement. Disgusting doesn’t even come close. Revolting. Gag-inducing. Unspeakable things. Entering a public toilet was like forcing my nose 1 inch from a splattered bowl and inhaling deeply, and then freezing that moment forever.
If having a super smell makes me a superhero, my weapon is projectile vomit. Instead of a bat mobile, cape and side-kick, picture an Oyster card, mom clothes and side-bucket!
I first started writing this post last Christmas on the plane to Greece, inspired by an unwashed teenager sat in the seat in front. Since I couldn’t see his face, I imagined he was noseless and possibly homeless as the only explanation as to how and why he could be so undisturbed by his own reek. His BO lives inside my nose now.
In my row, when the passenger on my right fell asleep with his mouth so wide open it would make easy work for a dentist, I sat powerless. Inhaling a constant stream of slowly digested coffee, spanakopita and tooth decay on his third and second back upper molars.
And that’s when I realised it. But of course, I would have to learn how to control my power. Discreetly, I collected each sick bag from my row in preparation of the sick making good on its threat to spill out with such aggressive velocity it could pierce a hole in a sheet of cling film or blind an eye.
Meanwhile, the flight attendant inched closer with a trolley of bitter filter coffee and stale sandwiches. Two toilet doors fifteen seats down opened and closed, opened and closed, like an esophageal sphincter releasing a symphony of gases designed to make me slowly but surely lose my mind. These were testing times.
Desperate, I reached for my scarf and wrapped it around my face, creating a perfumed barrier between my nose and that jet-powered hell. Now comforted, my heart rate slowed, and I remember thinking, I can survive this.
Before leaving the airport, I stopped at the Duty Free and picked up an apocalyptic supply of perfumes, eau de toilette and body spray stuffing one into each pocket. Next, I tore up a T-shirt in order to strap another to my ankle and mindfully unwrapped my face scarf.
Like a caterpillar shedding its skin, I stepped out into the arrivals lounge a badass butterfly.