Thursday, October 20, 2005

Bittersweet

The wine glasses clinked in unison, the cheers reverberating around the flickering candlelight in our small dining room. My mother, her boyfriend and I had bought this bottle of wine together when were in Italy at the end of the summer. A splurge on Brunello di Montalcino for a special occasion, we had said. We were all leaning in at the table, our faces closer together over the bulky weight of the table. Becca, having arrived that morning in a cloud of rain, sat across from me. The smiles were infectious. The laughter billowing up from the pit of my stomach felt strange, unfamiliar, wonderfully comforting all at the same time.

I placed my nose carefully near the inside of the fluted crystal glass. The red wine moved in a jaunty pirouette around the diminishing inner curve. I held the glass away from me, admiring the deep color in the light and then put it back towards my nose.

I inhaled deeply. Once, twice, three times. It was there; a scent was lurking in the back of my nose. A dark aroma of the outdoors, a cloudy fruitiness, a jarring tang. It cascaded down my throat. Brief, muted, but there all the same.

I looked up to find everyone staring at me. My family and Becca were watching me closely, simultaneously, wondering if I could smell, if I could taste, if I would hold it against them that they could. My surprised smile seemed to elevate their sympathetic anxiety.

I took a sip. I could taste the fruit; the thick sweetness of the red wine coated the roof of my mouth with its intensity. I could taste the acidity, a twang in the back of my throat as I exhaled again. The flavors were intense, wonderful, and jarringly separate. There was no melding between the sugar and acid. It had a strange echo of the familiar taste, but an overwhelming jump to the oddly split unknown.

When Becca left on Sunday night for her long trek back to upstate New York after a wonderfully refreshing weekend visit, I sat on my bed and inhaled deeply. There was no smell, per usual. Nothing but that all too familiar twang of loneliness residing in the back of my throat.

I have been existing in a strangely dissected world. I am recovered and strong enough to regain important snippets of my life. I took myself off of painkillers in order to remove the fog that I’ve felt continuously enveloping my mind. I can think clearly; I can laugh with my friends; I can move around hobbled only by my need for crutches. I grasp at my old social life, my old movement and taste. I am just beginning to smell a light waft of that deep sweetness, normalcy. It is constantly countered by that intense acidity of frustrating confusion, however. I am not beyond the immediate effects of my injuries, no matter the delicious progress I have made.

And so sipping my drink that night – my first taste of wine in months, finally off of my pain meds – it felt familiar in its strange dissociation of taste. My taste, my life, are torn between a happy sweetness of recovery and a dull tang of seeming impenetrable injury.

But I certainly think our bottle of Brunello was put to good use. The sweetness and acidity of the wine, however separate for me at the moment, are integral parts of its makeup. Eventually they will meld. Eventually everything will come together.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful post. You have a fantastic attitude and I know your sense of smell will return. You are always in my thoughts.

Fanny said...

Hi Molly, reading through your post i felt the joy getting in myself. I AM SO HAPPY FOR YOU. This is incredible, you must feel a lot more better now you know you can smell and taste. Sure this is not the end of the recovery, but a good step has been made.
Love
Fanny

chronicler said...

Molly, I am so happy to read this post! Maybe, just maybe, you'll start at the CIA in January. I have a young friend starting there in January also. He is very excited and can hardly wait for January!

Shauna said...

Beautiful, my dear. I could feel the tears prickling when I read your description of the first smell. It's indelible, now.

And this sentence, so gorgeous: I am just beginning to smell a light waft of that deep sweetness, normalcy.

It will grow sweeter and sweeter, I'm sure.

Suebob said...

You take it easy, girl. I think as you go through the stages of this, you will see what a profound lesson it has for you. I went through a period of 6 months of horrific pain and, though it was awful awful awful at the time, I still would not trade it for anything because I got to know a deeper me.

Molly said...

Thank you all for your support and encouragement! I greatly appreciate it.

And I hope, too, that I'll be starting at the CIA sooner rather than later. I'm keeping my fingers crossed (as well as sniffing lots of wine; I figure that practice can only help)

Molly