Can You Smell That? (No.)

I’ll admit: I don’t know much – if anything – about ansomia, the condition that some people have that makes it difficult or impossible to smell anything. (I’m glad I don’t have it, though once in a while summers in New York City make me wish I do . . . )

But this little essay helped me understand it better, and was beautiful, too:

Our friends don’t understand us either.  What do you mean you can’t smell? they ask.

I can smell, I say. A bit. I smell frying onions, garlic, pine forests, and cigarettes. But not new-mown grass. I only know the grass has been mown when I see the drifts of clippings. And I can’t smell all the things you say you smell, the nuances and differences, the specifics. I can smell citrus, but not orange, lemon, lime, pink grapefruit. I can smell too much perfume, but not whether it is Chanel No. 5 or Justin Bieber’s GIRLFRIEND. I can smell bad, but I can’t say what’s making it bad. Sometimes you screw up your face and cover your nose, and I smell nothing.


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