The Scent that Lingers

Slice of Life Day 14

Do you know how that song you wake up to can often linger in your memory for several hours? You’re singing it in the car on the way to work. You’re humming it in the hallways. Whether you enjoyed that initial tune or not, it cycles through your mind in an endless loop, replaying over and over. Friends or colleagues grin as you meander past them.

If music can cling to your memory throughout a day, what about a smell? Is it possible to experience a fragrance, scent, or odor (preferably not the latter) so powerfully, so intensely, that it permeates your senses and is carried with you the rest of the day?

Years ago, I used to babysit for a young couple one morning a week so they could get away for a breakfast or cup of coffee and have time to talk. They had an infant boy who was just as sweet and adorable as he could be. 

Except he was a baby. And babies have diapers. And diapers are nasty. Sometimes they are even worse. Occasionally, you’ll be faced with a pungent, knock-your-socks-off, make-your-eyes bleed diaper, exploding with muck and yuck that simultaneously streams down the babies legs and funnels up his back. 

One morning, that is how he woke up. While I was babysitting.

After risking life and limb to change him, and somehow resisting the undulations in my stomach and the constant urge to gag, I managed to change the poor lad’s diaper. (Why was he smiling? There was nothing humorous about his potent, omnipresent poop.) In order to distance myself from the odiferous stench, I took the contaminated mess to the outdoor trash and fastened the lid. Then I scrubbed and scoured my hands, several times over, to remove any last traces of the icky-ness.

But like a song that awakens you in the morning, I could not get the stench out of my mind. Every so often, I would catch a powerful whiff, as if remnants of his diaper were wafting by. Unsure of the source, I checked the little boy, to make sure that his smile wasn’t related to a new round of mischief in his shorts. Then I washed my raw hands yet again. 

Hours later, even after I left their home, the diaper’s specter haunted my olfactory senses. That afternoon, I was asked to give a short presentation to a staff group. Trying to focus my thoughts, I stood before the small collection of colleagues, trying to keep my comments clear, while my nose continued to feel repulsed by the morning’s encounter. Alarms went off in my mind. This was more than a memory. This was beyond a scent that my mind refused to erase.

I went outside to collect myself, inhaling some fresh air. As I looked down towards the grass, it hit me, one final time. The ominous stench. The scent that had lingered all day long. 

        And I finally saw it.

        A little crusty diaper souvenir had been smeared on my belt.

And I wondered if that little boy was still smiling.

7 thoughts on “The Scent that Lingers

  1. Sorry about your luck, but I laughed all the way through this post! This is a fantastically written, icky story! I don’t miss those diapers at all!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ha ha! I think so many things cling to us like that diaper souvenir, don’t they? I have a very hard time getting rid of the songs, the ear worms, that haunt me, I’d almost rather have the poop smell. Love the way you structured your piece and made us all come to a screeching halt at the end. Great job.

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  3. This made me laugh! What a powerful memory to take with you all these years. I suspected something of this sort as I scrolled past your picture. I liked the connection you made to a lingering song at the beginning of your piece.


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