Sight, sound, smell, taste, touch. That’s the order, right? It is for me, anyway, making “smell” the third sense. And not just a lowly third sense either, because something about this sense is transcendent – it has the power to link up with your sixth sense.
And if, like the lady above, you find something rotten in the air, chances are it’s indicative of an existential decay of some sort. Or, in some cases, it could just be a fart.
But I digress.
There are times – many times – when my third sense activates the sixth with devastating consequences. I remember once, sitting at my desk in my office when I got the unmistakeable whiff of beer. This was years ago, when Ben was still struggling to stay dry. I was at my office, nowhere near drink of any kind apart from water and tea, yet the smell of beer was overwhelming.
I rang up Ben and I knew immediately that he was back on the booze.
There were times – many times – like that one, before he finally gave up drinking. It’s been just over two years now. But still, I find myself sniffing the air from time to time. He has a habit of eating black bananas, which have a sugary, alcohol-y smell. They are only in my house when he is. And they always seem to be nearby, clouding him in suspicious fumes.
To his credit, he lets me do my bloodhound act. It runs the same way each time, too:
me (sniffing): What’s that smell?
him: I don’t know. What is it?
(both glance towards blackened lengths of banana).
me (sniffing closer to bananas): Oh, must be those.
him (biting into one): Yeh.
And that’s it. It doesn’t escalate beyond that, partly because my sixth sense never really kicks in, and partly because I know I’m not stuck having to deal with him. He doesn’t live with us anymore, you see, so I can always ask him to leave.
This is what I tell myself, anyway. The truth is, if and when the day comes that it isn’t the bananas or some other benign explanation, I really don’t know what I’ll do. I’d like to think that I would calmly send him packing.
But who really knows? All I can do is prepare myself. I imagine the sniffing is part of that process- the need to be prepared for the worst, prepared for the all too inevitable. And yet, where the sniffing was knee-jerk and uncannily precise back then, it’s more of an atavistic behaviour now. Should I worry about becoming complacent?
Or should I be grateful that so far, I haven’t had to test my mettle beyond a desultory sniff…. and just hope it stays that way?