Tuesday, April 03, 2007

the smell of victims

I finally had that glass of wine I've been craving since I got back from Napa. I could have had five, but it was already late. After watching a depressing movie about Ireland in the 1920s, we stopped in at Proof. It specializes in vodka by the bottle, but since I'm such a high-roller I had a South African cabernet sauvignon by-the-glass instead.

I road the subway home at midnight, discarded newspaper pages strewn at my feet. I smelled the stench of urine before I saw him. He was blind with black stringy hair. He had a deep chronic looking sore on the back of his head and he was hitting himself on the side of his face, moaning. I tried not to breath through my nose and to relax the back of my throat, the way I'd learned to in my GI oncology rotation so I wouldn't gag when I smelled feces. Sometimes though, even the experienced can't help it, so I got up at the next stop. Still reading about the threat of an insurgency in Mogadishu, I slipped out and into the next compartment just as the doors were closing. I never even lost my place in the article, it was that smooth. There was a flash of guilt for that; such an easy dismissal, but it was pacified by my unwavering focus on the article. Also important, as topics go. Somehow it seemed like a fair trade.

Speaking of smells, there was a voicemail waiting for me at home from the public health department about the investigation of the apartment upstairs; the one that smells like what I would imagine a dead body smells like after a couple of weeks. Before calling public health I called my uncle, a criminal lawyer in New York.

"Hi Uncle Saul, it's Rachel."

"Rachel! How's my little buttercup?"

"I'm good, how are things with you?"

"Busy as usual. Someone's gotta pay for all these trips your Aunt has me going on. Last month we spent in Palm Springs. Next year she says to me, Saulie, we're going on a safari in Africa. A safari, she tells me! Can you believe this? And so I said, 'oh we are are we?' And let me tell you something, safari's don't come cheap."

"Wow, that'll be amazing. Listen Uncle Saul, I have a strange question. What does a dead body that's been sitting around awhile smell like?'

"How the hell should I know?"

"You defend murderers, do you not?"

"ALLEGED murderers, yeah, but honey, I don't smell their victims."

So I guess I'll have to wait to find out what public health has to say. They're on the case.

3 comments:

Lx said...

should've called me.
i can tell you all about that.
also
insurgency in mogadishu:
here we go again.
this time around, however,
i'm glad i'm not around for them
to send me.
i've had it with africa.
safaris or no safaris.

Rachel said...

Do I even want to know how you know?

OK fine. I do. Spill.

Lx said...

Correspondent, USIA:
yugoslavia, 1991-1992
rwanda, June-August 1994