Anosmia

The weed in my front yard next to the sidewalk regrew every time I pulled it out. I would remove it, but the root would remain, of course, and a few weeks later it would poke from the ground again and begin spreading outward all spikey  and obscene. It was October 13, 2013 and I had just mowed my lawn for the last time of the year. I went to my garage and got a shovel. The weed was going to end. I poked the tip of the shovel into the grass several inches from the edge of the weed, jumped on the shovel, and bent the shovel back, lifting the weed in a clump of grass and mud. I pulled the shovel out and walked to the opposite side, poking the shovel into the lawn once more. I jumped on the shovel again, but this time the shovel flew out from under me. I landed on my back and my head slammed  onto the sidewalk. Immediately there was ringing in my ears and my head hurt like it had never hurt before. I crawled to my front stairs, pulled myself up using the railing, went inside, took some Ibuprofen, and lay down on the couch in silence for a couple of hours. I had not lost consciousness, and I did not have nausea, so I didn’t go immediately to the hospital. Later in the day, my head aching with what would eventually clock in as a two week headache, I went to Costco for household supplies. There were spring roll samples being offered by an employee. I took a morsel and popped it in my mouth. I noticed that it tasted odd, not particularly appealing. On my way home, I stopped at Jewel and bought some fried chicken. In my car, heading into my neighborhood, I found it curious that the food wasn’t filling my car with its delicious aroma that usually would have me leaning heavy on the gas, impatient to get home to eat my savory snack. When I got home, irritable from the ringing in my ears and the headache, I bit into a drumstick and tasted nothing that I was expecting. It occurred to me that I should call Jewel and complain that there was something off with their chicken. Then the thought dawned on me. I went into the bathroom, took the cover off one of my wife’s perfume bottles and sniffed. There was absolutely no scent whatsoever. I sniffed food in the refrigerator, cleaning solvents, gasoline in the garage, and the result was the same each time: no smell to anything. I went to the hospital and had an x-ray done that showed there was no skull fracture or bleeding on the brain. The doctor could make no prediction about my sense of smell returning. My daughter Julia told me the condition of having no sense of smell is called anosmia, and I may have damaged my olfactory nerve. It has the affect on my sense of taste similar to that of total nasal congestion. I can still taste saltiness and sweetness. The capsaicin in chili peppers still produces a burn. But flavor now is just a shell of what it once was. It’s like it once was in color, but now is black and white. I read that if the sense of smell didn’t return within a year, it likely would be gone for good. It’s been about three and a half years since my concussion, and it hasn’t returned. I can pick up the slightest scent of two things though: coffee and my shaving lotion, but the smells aren’t the same. Coffee produces the slightest whiff of something more like caramel or toffee. The lotion produces a tiny whiff of some sweet chemical odor. These whiffs of coffee and lotion are barely perceivable, more like memories that are triggered than genuine smells. I miss the smell of BBQ smoke in my back yard. I miss the taste of grilled meat. I feel guilty drinking my brother-in-law’s expensive wine. 30 percent of my senses are gone.  My interface with the physical world has been altered. Living creatures want to derive pleasure from the world around them. For me there is just a little less sensory information to do so with. Life goes on. Except for the weed, which I finished off upon returning from the hospital. Fucker.

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Author: eric@ericschuurman.com

Father, mechanical drafter, former musician.