I can’t find his smell anywhere.
Of the many things cancer took from us, one of the most profound and most upsetting what his smell. Andy smelled of clean clothes, cold air, fleece, and, there’s no other way to say it, man. He had this wonderfully comforting smell that I would breathe in while nestled in his chest, folding his laundry, or even walking hand in hand. I would lean over and, like a weirdo, just sniff his shoulder. A deep inhale that would soothe my frazzled nerves and remind me that home is wherever that shoulder was.
Cancer took that smell. In the last few months of his life, Andy smelled of antiseptic, skin barrier (which has a sort of cloying thick smell), and cough syrup. He didn’t drink cough syrup, but the combined smells of all the other stuff on him would create a distinct smell of cherry cough syrup. The kind that used cherry to help make it go down, but really it was an insult to cherry because really it just tasted like medicine.
Andy gave me that joke. When he would do his colonoscopy prep (12 total in his last 15 years), he would get a big jug for the prep medicine and they would include this little packet labeled “lemon” with a cartoon lemon on the front. As if the lemon would help what was ahead of the prepper. Andy would leave it taped on the jug during the whole process and regularly remark, “That packet is an insult to me and to lemons. Nothing can help this stuff.”
I searched for his smell for weeks. I handled every piece of clothing, every hat, sock, jacket, pillow case, everything. And all I got was laundry detergent or that sickly smell of cancer.
Friends said, “Keep looking. I’m sure there’s something.” But there isn’t.
Not having his smell is the cherry on the shit sundae of this situation. While this all was going down, I would imagine that I could at least bury my face in his green fleece jackets and still breathe him in. But, no. I have to construct the smell from memory. And then I get a lump in my throat from the thought of that smell, the missing that smell, and the injustice of everything with this.
How can he be gone? How?
How are people who are way shittier and way more awful still alive while Andy isn’t? Is this part of some cosmic plan to teach everyone who touched Andy a lesson? Is Andy the center of some great wave of learning?
If so, fuck that.
I said in Andy’s eulogy that this was a cosmic injustice. And I stand by that. The slightly less cosmic injustice, more of a galactic injustice, is this absence of his smell.