Monday, August 28, 2006

The Smell of Death



The smell started about 9 days ago. It came in through the toilet and the bathroom. Tel Aviv heat seemed to have reach it's peak in the last week and I was certain a new mold colony found it's way into a deep corner of our small bathroom. I lifted the plastic tubs and sniffed, I opened the cupboard and stuck my head in. "Is it from the inside or the outside??" I yelled to my roommate in the living room. "Outside, definately outside" he replied. "It seems it's from the inside" I stated. For days I was convinced it was a terrible mold from the polluted, summer city. We took to closing the grated windows and keeping the door shut- it seemed to take the smell away.

When P Bonez came over before the weekend, he stuck his head into the bathroom, into the cupboards and whiffed around. "Listen, i've worked in a hospital and walked past the morgue, that's the smell of death" he stated convincingly. I then walked into the kitchen and climbed onto the countertop, where I opened the window that looked into the small, closed- in courtyard. I squinted my eyes into the tree, to see if I could see the nests of birds my roommate talked about, I squinted onto the ground, three floors below to try and focus on some cat carcasses (this was, after all- Tel Aviv, where the street cats are of a more aggressive breed.) I looked up to the apartment above and said to P and roommate: "Those are flies up there, near the windows.. but they aren't near any other windows". As they both walked up to the window we debated whether it was really out of order to see a few flies, but then again- this was Tel Aviv, when is there NOT a fly harassing you when you are out and about?

Our doubts and noses were put to rest when my roommate answered the door yesterday morning to two paramedics asking whether the elderly woman above us had any family. Hugh offered what was a speculation between all of us, but refused to really confront before. "The lady could possibly have passed. She has cats." he told them. Hugh said that the paramedic stressfully placed his hand to his cheek". "Cama Chatuleem ( how many cats)??" he asked. "Arbe (many)", replied my roommate.

What sickens me most about this whole situation is that the paramedics left the soiled items in health department bags at the top of the staircase. They were finally dragged down early this morning, but not after leaking (plasma looking stuff) onto the staircase. I spent the morning with my co-worker, trying to find who is responsible for this case. "As long as it's not the carcass, it's not a health hazard" says the health dept.

It is a shame to die alone- and I will never own a cat again. My curiousity can't help but wonder what this woman was about- but if I didn't bother more than a "Boker Tov" to her in the mornings when she was alive- I can't really justify the weirdness I feel in her death. But death, it's a pretty weird thing- and for such a finite moment of life, it comes in so many forms.

Each cat I walked by today, I shuddered- I am praying that there wasn't an open window where these cats were walking in and out of, because most of us know what cats do when unfed and within the parameters of death.

2 Comments:

At 8/28/2006 4:44 PM, Blogger alias pail said...

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At 8/28/2006 4:46 PM, Blogger alias pail said...

I was attending the 1992 American Academy of Forensic Sciences conference in New Orleans and a forensic pathologist related the following story (paraphrased as best as memory will serve): "Sometimes, when an individual living alone dies unexpectedly, several days may pass before anyone takes notice. Some of these individuals may own a dog or a cat, which will go unfed. In my experience, a dog may go for several days before finally resorting to eating the owner's body. A cat, on the other hand, will only wait a day or two. Just goes to show you which is more loyal. So, the next time you're falling asleep on the couch with the football game on, take a look at your cat. He's not watching you because he's enamored of you; he's checking to see if your chest is still moving."

 

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