My grandmother Della spent her life being terrified of smelling bad. She was born in 1915, when daily bathing still wasn’t a common practice and effective underarm deodorants was nothing more than a glimmer in some R&D man’s eye. As a teenager, she shared a bed with her own grandmother, a woman who would spend the moments before sleep farting in a most musical and odorous fashion. Della took to painting on a little strip of perfume under her noise each night before going to bed, in an attempt to ward away the fumes.
When I knew her, Della never smelled bad. Each morning she showered, powered, lotioned and perfumed herself into a cloud of fragrance. She brushed her teeth multiple times a day and stashed rolls of Certs in every handbag she owned. And her apartment always smelled fresh, clean and welcoming.
Ever since inheriting her apartment, I’ve felt responsible for maintaining a space that always smells pleasing (although, on occasion, I’ve settled simple for unoffensive). However, recently, there’ve been some singularly unpleasant smells wafting from the bathroom, a stink that deserved the kinds of wiggly lines only seen in Peanuts cartoons. Unfortunately, even after scrubbing the bathroom from top to bottom (including swabbing out the inside of the toilet tank) and treating both drains with a cocktail of baking soda, lemon juice and boiling water, the funk remains. I actually began to wonder if the lady next door had died in her bathtub and was slowly decomposing on the other side of the wall (I saw her two days ago, tottered towards the elevator with her cane and badly dyed hair, so that theory is thankfully untrue). I know it’s morbid, but when you live in a building such as ours, it’s not an impossible thought.
Then, last night, as I was leaning down to spit out my toothpaste, I noticed that the smell was stronger. Toothbrush still in hand, I bent down again and poked my nose towards the drainage hole on the far side of the sink. It offered a sewer-like stink. I straighted up and cheered, delighted to have found the source (I tried to get Scott to come over and check it out, but he declined). I’ve since discovered, in my recent cleaning process, a whole world of moldering stink has been hiding in there. I’ve doused it with a number of cleaners and this weekend am planning on getting in there with some scrubbers I’m improvising out of rags and chopsticks.
It’s an exciting life I lead, isn’t it.