My shit doesn't stink, and neither does anyone else's these days. It has been three weeks since I got this cold, and although I've regained my hearing—or the little I had before the cold—I'm still missing my sense of smell. It's a strange absence, one that leaves me wistful. At my sister-in-law's house in rural Massachusetts, I couldn't smell the roses even when I jammed my nose into the petals and everyone around me was in raptures over the divine fragrance. I can no longer wake up and smell the coffee, though I can again hear the roar of the grinder.
The missing sense (scents?) makes it impossible for me to know whether I've got B.O. or a cantaloupe is ripe—or the cat box needs attention. For reasons too silly to recount here, I am responsible for changing the cat litter and washing the box (o.k., it was my decision to get these cats, and in order to procure them I had to promise to be the box minder in perpetuity since I had stubbornly and selfishly refused to have anything to do with caring for Other's now deceased kitty). But since I can't smell a thing, I have to ask Other whether the time has come. Here is Other's finely nuanced weather report today: "You'll need to change it sometime today, but it's not an emergency. There's a little odor, but it's not strong unless you're raking it. It's getting soggy though, and the pellets [we mix odor-absorbing tubules in with the clay gravel] are starting to disintegrate, so you can't put it off till tomorrow." Could I ask for a more precise description? Can you not visualize the exact state of the kitty toilet? And does it not make you want to wait till tomorrow to visit us?
It's ironic that I'm now dependent on others (especially Other) for odor reports, since my previously fine-tuned nose has always cast me as the paranoid sniffer-dog in our house. It was I who, days before anyone else noticed, knew with certitude that something was rotten in the state of our refrigerator. It was I who could not stop looking, despite everyone's assurances that the stench was all in my imagination, till I found the fragrant skidmark Iggy had deposited on some rug or floor. It was I who detected under the camouflage of perfume and breath mints the guilty whiff of smoke in C's hair. I was the odor police. And now I have to rely on the kindness of Other to tell me which way the wind blows.