You’ve been living with your parent(s) for… well… damn near your whole life, give or take a year when you thought you were ready even though you had no idea which way was up or why that little bundle of something next to you makes the most adorable cooing sounds followed by blood-curdling screams.
You move out. That little bundle is now seven years old and you surprise her with a “new” apartment. I use the quotations because the outdated kitchen cabinets and the mediocre temperature capacity of the water heater would suggest otherwise. It’s new to you and that’s all you care about.
At least, until you notice a distinct smell. The old kind of smell that tells you that the people before you may have left in a hurry and forgot what the word “clean” actually means. You start to smell the dust and grime left behind to consume every surface area. It’s okay though. You can make this better because you’re borderline obsessive when it comes to clean. After you slave over a couple of days and knock off a few years of your lung capacity, it starts to feel like home here. You breathe as deep as your chemical-ridden lungs will allow and relax. This is your space. Now, sit back on your invisible furniture and bask in the silence.
Oh hey, there’s that bundle again… and her abuse of all vocal functionality. (Yes, dad. That word is for you.)
A few days pass and you notice your nostrils twitching again. Wait, a smell? You thought you eradicated all bad smells from existence when you moved in. Oh no. There’s one thing you forgot about; you have neighbors. There are people in close proximity behind fragile, deteriorating walls. You can hear everything that they do. Why would you ever think that you wouldn’t smell them?!
Thank you, under-maintained apartment complex, for reminding me exactly how “new” you really are.
At first, the smell isn’t so bad. The neighbors are frying something it seems. This is fine. You enjoy a little bit of greasy deliciousness yourself. You’re okay with this…until… What the hell is that?! It smelled like chicken at first but now it reeks of the garbage left in the dirt under the hot sun for days before the chicken shit all over it. It assaults every sense you have. Your nostrils close up, causing you to become a mouth breather. Your eyes start watering uncontrollably, everything you touch feels like ten-year-old fryer oil, and the only thing you can hear is your own sobbing. This must be what limbo is like. It teases you with the smell of beautifully fried chicken but ends up reminding you of a time when you threw up in the backseat of your parents’ car on a hot summer day and then couldn’t get all of it out of the creases for weeks. The worst part of this moment is that it lingers for the rest of the night as if the smell has seeped into the walls somehow and exhales itself in short periodic bursts.
However, by morning, it seems to have diminished. Alright, that wasn’t too awful. Maybe they just had an off night.
But you were wrong, so very wrong. It continues the next night and every night thereafter. It’s like this cruel cycle of making you want to throw up your dinner at the very smell of what your neighbor is cooking. Why would they do such a thing to that poor food?! WHY?!
But wait, what’s this? It stops. The horrible smell seems to dissipate. It’s gone for a long time. All of the sudden, the nightmares stop and you sleep peacefully knowing that they quit murdering the culinary lifestyle.
This is what the paradise side of limbo feels like.
Then, one night, you start to smell something else. This time, it’s not so horrible. Your nostrils stay open and, maybe, even a little wider than they should. You remember that smell. It’s that sweet, delicate, seductive smell of chocolate in fudgy-cake form.
It’s such a beautiful smell. Everything inside of you goes weak and you consider forgetting the last eight months of horror just so you can ask for a piece. Just one delicious piece of perfectly cooked chocolate pillows is all you need…
It dawns on you that five days ago you started that doctor recommended gluten-free diet. Why else would your neighbors suddenly figure out that not everything has to be fried in murky oil to taste good? Of course they would pick this exact point in time to produce the most INTOXICATINGLY DELICIOUS SMELL KNOWN TO MAN. You can almost hear the maniacal laughing on the other side of the wall. This feels purposeful.
At some point the uncontrollable sobbing will stop.
At least, that’s what you tell yourself while you search the vast reaches of the internet for an apartment with thicker walls.