Breathe in the Decay

Categories: bad day, death, what in the entire hayle

So, for me… something smells.


My sense of smell has been the gift and the curse for me all my life.  I’ve always joked growing up in Queens that I could smell a fire that just started in Flatbush.   And while that may not have been entirely true – I could smell a fire starting 6 blocks away.   I smell EVERYTHING.   And living in New York… that can really be a good or a bad thing.  One block away from where I live, they must have planted night blooming jasmine in consecutive backyards so walking down that block is sheer joy.   Conversely… I can STILL remember the smell of the bubbling, rotting pavement by the train station at 90th – Elmhurst Avenue in my old neighborhood.  I’d start smelling it from Denman St.  – a clear 3 blocks away.   Bakeries are pure aromatic porn.   Someone with poor general hygiene – it’s like the odor gets imprinted on my nostrils.  It’s why I was so hesitant to get braids because I’M the person who hugged you and can tell that you went 1 week too long without washing them.

This olfactory superpower has normally overwhelmed me and in a large part, just annoyed the shit out of E.   Something always smells.   “Babe… do you smell that?” and his response is usually “No.”  And then I have to go through the paces of explaining what I smell and ask his help to track it down so we can either identify it or render it “un”smelly.   I’m sure he’s over me.   The other day while we put together his new entertainment center for the new tv I got him for Father’s day… I kept saying I smelled burning.  Something’s burning.    Within the hour, our house had a hazy smoke hanging overhead.  Our neighbor 3 doors down had been trying (and failing) to light their grill and it filled the area with smoke that floated into all our homes.

Shortly after putting together the entertainment center – a few days later, actually –  I wanted to sit and watch this new tv on my own and enjoy it as my husband had for a few days.  But I couldn’t get comfortable in the living room.   Something smelled.  But this time… NOT good.  Just…  like… maybe the garbage needed to be taken out… or … he left some food out on the counter.  But it was pervasive enough that I didn’t want to stay in that area.  I retreated back to the office, pointed the tower fan at my head (which is how I avoid MOST odors) and binged 30 Rock on Hulu.

The days were getting warmer… and that smell…. it wasn’t going away. So we started the investigations…  Was it where we stored the towels?  Earl? did you put a moist towel there?   How long ago did we take out the garbage?  Could it be something in the refrigerator?   It was getting so bad that I pointed the tower fan into the hallway to try to keep the odor from getting into the office while we were out at work and nothing was cooling the house down.    This past weekend it started to get uncomfortable… and I began to recognize that smell.


A mouse.   There HAD to be a dead mouse SOMEWHERE in the house and it was driving me ABSOLUTELY insane now.   And the part that was driving me most batty is that Earl claimed to not be able to smell it.  And Athena’s sense of smell?  Well… let’s say I think she had the opposite of my superpower.  Except when it comes to food that she really loves to eat.  She smells THAT right away.   So now I’m beginning to think it’s me.  The smell must be in my head.  Something’s wrong with me.  But I DO smell it.   And it’s GROSS.   Laying there last night in my bed after Athena’s beautiful recital, the only way I was able to go to sleep was to stick my nose inside the collar of my shirt and breathe through that in order to get some kind of relief.  Smell something else.   Meanwhile, Earl slept the night away without a problem.

It must be me.

In the morning, he told me he checked the traps and found a few decaying mice in there and disposed of them immediately.   He also addressed the hamper with the towels, but really nothing was in there that could have smelled.   You would have thought that this gave me relief.  But as I walked through the house once more… there it is… the smell.  It’s STILL HERE.  I started to question if Earl was just telling me he found the mice as a way to psyche me out of believing that there was an odor at all – and ultimately, leaving him be.  Driving me crazy… I wondered to myself how I’d make it through another night.   I may have to sleep in the car.   Maybe I could stay with a friend.  I don’t know how I’ll do it.

Then this afternoon Earl sends me a text that reads:

“The odor was coming from next door. The neighbor next door passed away. He had been dead for days. The smell was not only coming into us but at 267 as well.  That’s why the ambulance and 5.0 was out this morning.”

I’ve been sick to my stomach ever since.

Firstly because that man lived upstairs from his supposed brother.   Who doesn’t check on their kinfolk that lives upstairs FOR FOUR DAYS????

Secondly, because the decay that I’d been breathing in was a human corpse.

Thirdly because Earl assures me that the smell is probably not “gone” because that level of decay with the warm weather an all that – would probably not just dissipate unless they took whatever he was decaying ON and then subsequently aired out the room.

It explained why the living room and holding rooms reeked.  The neighborhood’s bedroom was adjacent.  And with those rooms being the biggest ones in the house – OF COURSE, they permeated the odor to the rest of the house.   And on the days I thought I was being mindful to open the windows to “let the house air out”… I was letting that death waft in all over the walls.

I’m deeply saddened by the man’s passing.

And I just wanted to document this as proof that you shouldn’t disregard your instincts/gut feelings.

Or be led to believe that you’re crazy.

Even by yourself.




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