• Josely Carvalho

Diary of Smells: Covid19 (02)

Updated: May 8

April 28,2020





Now, after Covid19 is in the process of leaving me, I write a brief description about the invasion of this virus inside my body. The chameleonic nature of this nano/virus takes different forms and reactions in each body. It has no established pattern – only FEAR is part of all forms Covid19. It is the virus of uncertainty. The only sureness I felt in these last five weeks was the certainty of the uncertainties we are living today with the pandemic. Everything has taken the rhythm of the unknown. Even for some of us that are accustomed to test the odds, the mistrust brought by this epidemic has slashed our desire to cross borders. Like the turtle, I have entered inside my carapace – a hibernation where I question the possible loss of my yearning to open up my wings and fly with the birds.

Epidemics are agents of history says William McNeil in his book Plagues and People. The effects of pandemics are existential and push us to acknowledge our fragility and face DEATH as the only certitude.

Covid19 entered our bodies in silence, without a perceived smell to warn us of danger. My first symptom was the loss of taste and consequently, the loss of smell. Not a total anosmia, but a loss of nuances, subtleties and layers. I had no appetite, no interest, desire or pleasure in eating. I ate healthy soups and drank water to endure. FEAR and anxiety were the only affections that seemed to bond to my inwards. There were days I sensed a slight discomfort in my left ear. The same ear I had a sudden loss of hearing due to sinus infection a few years ago. I thank the recovery to corticoids. There are now studies that disagree with early information that corticoids should not be taken with Covid19. I used in my nose to keep my sinus clear. Nobody knows anything. We are the guinea-pigs.

The body temperature run up and down constantly, never too high but enough to keep me frightened, warm and ready to go to a hospital if I would experience some kind of anoxia. The following mornings I would be well and wait for the afternoons Covid’s changes of mood. Chi Kun breathing exercises filled my mornings, research my afternoons and meditations my nights. As the day went by, I entered deeper and deeper inside my own body. I cut some of the news. It was too painful to imagine the situation of millions of people living in the streets, without enough space, water, sanitary conditions and shameful health system. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has found out that Latinos and African Americans have died at significantly higher rates than white Americans in the U.S. The poverty that has assailed the country is unacceptable and despicable in the wealthiest economy of the world.

Perhaps, I had to meet this invisible, odorless to my nose and unknown creature that invaded me provoking smells in my body. One day I smelled my armpit and didn’t like it. I smelled my feet with surprise. How come if I had never felt a strong smell from my body? My body, perhaps, acquired more pronounced smells to be more in touch with it. Today talking with Caro Verbeek, art/olfaction historian based in Amsterdam, she told me that Covid19 have a smell. I was so surprised and happy to find an explanation for the strong smells coming out from my body. As we all know, we usually hide our smells with perfume. We now know we cannot hide the smell that Covid19 produces and it may be used as diagnosis.

How could my sense of smell be so affected in s many different ways? Another day, I sensed an acrid, mordant, bitter, molded smell behind the washing machine near the kitchen door. I looked everywhere, behind, under, on top... I smelled fabrics, cleaning cloths, walls and could not find where this smell was coming from. It was there for about three days then it just disappeared. Could it be that Covid19 was giving me a phantom hallucination? Could it be DELIRIUM? I noticed my memory became sharper. I had the desire to remember stories of my son’s childhood and record them. Probably FEAR of DEATH pushes us back in time to sharpen memories for the last breath when the sense of smell leaves the body in pain.

Anxiety creeped in when the internet, my only communication with the outside became also unstable. Technicians were unable to find the reason. After the resolution, my computer refused to accept the internet. Can the Covid19 invade the brain of computers?

I have read that Covid19’s uncertain behavior has more to do with the host body than the virus itself. I am not sure. I felt a symbiosis with it. It seems to me we have become friendly enemies. Could we have exchanged personalities?


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