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That Smell


This is a snippet of some character development I am doing for a novel I am working on, written from the perspective of a terminally ill patient. It is loosely based on a friend who has Cystic Fibrosis.

Hospitals have a certain smell; latex, ammonia, and the stench of fear and sadness. Stale coffee. Fabric refresher. A plethora of perfumes, colognes, and body odours. The longer you stay in one, the less these scents irritate and disgust you. You become nose blind until you leave and have to come back.

It’s different if you are a patient than if you are a visitor. Visitor’s have it easier as they are distracted by all of the reasons they are there; fretting and worried about all manner of things that have/could/will go wrong. Watches dropped into open cavities during surgery. Test results showing cancer. Hospice. Death. As a patient, especially a long-term patient, you become accustomed to the smell much faster. The longer you are there, the less fear you feel. The fear doesn’t disappear, but it sure as hell gets easier to ignore it. You worry less for yourself that your visitor’s worry for you. Naturally, you start to worry about your roommates and their families. It is easier to worry for others. It helps distract you from your own mortality, which is always welcome.

But then you leave and come back again some other time and BAM! there it is again; that stench. It crawls into your nasal passages and sinks it’s hooks in, and you almost hope it will be a long stay, because you know it will fade more quickly that way. Almost.

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