The first thing I ever smelled was dog shit. From the time I was born, I've had horrible allergies, something that has set the tone of my life so far. Until the point I was four, this affliction meant was that I had all but no sense of smell, or more that my sense of smell was smothered by a layer of mucus, constant and unflowing. One summer day when I was four, I stepped in dog shit, and the eruption of smell, revolting, nauseating, and somehow warm, managed to penetrate beyond this layer of mucus, becoming the first thing I'd ever smelled.
Even today, when I daily spray an aerosol into each nostril for the sake of my allergies, my sense of smell is limited. The things I smell most easily, in order, are: gasoline, bodily waste, smoke, boiling shrimp (or crawfish), alcohol in drinks. When I was a child, nothing beyond that list (and I didn't drink when I was four) ever got smelled. So at four years old, the smell of dog shit was something of a revelation. I was so overwhelmed that I could think of nothing to say but "Dad, I stepped in poo." My dad was mowing the lawn and failed to hear me.
Memory is a weird thing, and I've found that most of what I remember turns out not to be true. For example, I probably did not say "Dad, I stepped in poo." My dad probably wasn't mowing the lawn at the time. But most importantly, the first thing I smelled was not dog shit.
The day after I stepped in dog shit, my nose decided to actually work, its defenses temporarily immobilized. We were driving home from church, and we drove past the Golden Rule Bar B Q on Highway 31. Half a mile away I could smell the hickory smoke, the fat dripping off of pork and chicken. I knew what it was, even though I'd never smelled it before. It seems as though the incident the day before had somehow exposed a new facet of the world. A blind person can operate without sight, but should he recieve sight, then there would be so much more color to his life. A person can live without a sense of smell, much easier than he can without sight. But adding a sense of smell made my life more worthwhile. Rooms in old houses don't grip you with sadness without the soft musk of oak decay. Warm spring days don't inspire great actions of reckless abandon without the glowing green scent of foliage ensconscing you in safety.
- Robert Goddam