I Believe In

Entry by: Freya

1st April 2016
I believe in my nose.

My sight is a disappointment. I am among the half percent of the female population affected by colour-blindness. It’s nice to know one is special in some way, even if it’s a rare genetic abnormality that distinguishes one from the crowd.

But more often than not, I hate my uniqueness. I am expected to thrive in the world not designed for people with my deficiency. When I drive after dark, the street lamps and the traffic lights amalgam in my vision into polychromatic madness. It is an effort to peruse a map, to buy matching clothes, even to garden. I always end up eating unripe bananas, and I can’t tell when the orange light on my cable TV equipment switches to green. My rainbow is tricoloured and I wouldn’t spot a Leprechaun if he leapt in front of me. Once, when I was younger, I visited an exhibition of impressionist art. One painting after another unveiled a hefty, nonsensical stain. Needless to say, my dream of becoming an art historian ceased right then.

My hearing has been a life-long disappointment. Hours of violin lessons, ballroom dancing classes, hours of spilling tears of envy when I saw the lightness with which those musically gifted performed, with so much grace and ease. Well, the advantage of old age is that I no longer deceive myself. I’m not going to be the next Paganini or Margot Fonteyn. I made my peace with it. But deep down I blame the hearing. It shuttered another of my dreams.

Touch I have long considered an inferior sense. I know, I know, people need to touch each other. Otherwise they grow into sociopaths. I admit I like stroking my hubby and I like to pat my dog but other than that I am not a ‘touchy’ person. I don’t like physical contact with strangers and, for the 99% of time, touching seems to me redundant. Useful, because some of my income comes from tapping the keyboard, but unnecessary. I could dictate my thoughts to the same effect.

Taste is a worthwhile sense. It’s practical and fun to be able to savour sweetness, bitterness, sourness, saltiness or even umaminess (if one believes Japanese scientists that there is indeed such a thing). But it’s the fragrance that makes the flavour. If one had but taste, life would be devoid of its very essence. My point is, to take full advantage of taste, one needs a nose no matter how densely one’s mouth is speckled with taste buds.

Like a canine, I rely on my muzzle before I even remember I’ve got other senses. It helps me navigate the world. Take work. Whether I collaborate with someone is determined in a split second by the concentration of urea in their sweat. I try to fight my prejudice, but working with a urea-fragrant person has never done me any good. Now, when a world-famous, malodorous scientist wanders the corridors of the institution where I work, and people tell me befriending him would make me leap a few echelons in no time, I simply slam my door. The urea is the ultimate repellent. And a great advisor. Au contraire, when I nosed my hubby for the first time, I knew we were meant for each other, and it’s been twenty-five years in perfect harmony.

Aromas and reeks determine my daily activities. The chocolate-fragranced gale billowing from the nearby Nestle factory tells me tomorrow will be a colder, brighter day. York seldom smells of chocolate in the rain. I sniff and I know what season it is. I don’t have to open my eyes to observe the leaves dropping or the daffodils blooming. My car’s scent reminds me of an upcoming service. The fungus that inhibits the vents spoils the air in an unmissable way.

I enter my office. If it’s the aroma of freshly brewed coffee that greets me, my secretary is in a good mood. If the prevailing smell of the morning is her herbal tea, she’s bloated and in no humour for a small talk.

The scent of my co-worker’s inflamed throat warns me to keep my distance. My nose works better than a flu jab. The waxy odour of my patient’s unwashed hair, that enters my nostrils as soon as she leans forward in her greetings, puts me on my guard. Her drug can’t be working properly; her mood bluer than ever. I need to do with talk therapy in an hour what pharmaceuticals couldn’t accomplish in weeks, but when I see her again and she radiates the fruity freshness, I know my nose might have saved one life.

As I stride home, the memories of people and places flutter through my head in odours. It’s through reminding myself of a particular scent that I revisit my past and I make sense of it.

At the twilight, when I cook, I inhale the zesty lemon and ginger concoction lingering on the tips of my fingers. The foetid feta cheese I thrust in a bin. The nose spares me a stomach-ache.

When I lay my head to my pillow, I sniff lavender. The old queen of slumber soothes better than a Xanax washed with Johnny Walker. Clothed in the aroma of homecoming, my hubby stirs in his sleep. I will succumb soon, to dream my scentless dreams. When I awaken, a fresh day will smell for me. I trust in my nose. It never disappoints.