UnBooks:Living with Trimethylaminuria

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I can't even get this girl into bed anymore!

I wake up, eyes still crusty from sleep. I feel refreshed for a moment, with the feeling one gets when one knows that they have a pleasant day ahead of them. But then I smell it, and I remember. I smell that horrid stench that I have smelled for years now and which has made my life hell since the day it arrived. I smell the unmistakable odor of fish.

I suffer from a disorder known as trimethylaminuria, or “Fish Odor Syndrome”, which means, in layman's terms, that my body is incapable of metabolizing trimethylamine. As a result, I must live every hour of every miserable day smelling strongly of fish.

I put on my glasses, get out of bed, and go to the washroom to shower, though I know I will have the exact same scent when I come out as I did when I started. I wash my hair, face, arms, hands (which were already washed by washing the rest, but one never can be too sure), and the rest of my disgustingly odiferous body. And, when I said I smelled the same when I come out as when I went in, that’s not entirely true — the smell is noticeably fruitier than it was pre-shower. Not that anyone will care.

My liver, circa the good old days.

Back in the early nineties, I was an alcoholic. I drank more alcohol in a day than most sober people could handle in a week without keeling over. Not that I was a bum, far from it—I got laid nearly every other day. I had an apartment, a job, and plenty of money; I was very careful to keep my drinking separate from my responsibilities. Life was sweet.

I eat breakfast, get dressed, and head off to work, to be once again ostracized and humiliated by my peers. I get in the car, and drive off to work. The people on the road can’t smell me, but they’re assholes to me anyway—they’re assholes to everybody.

One day I went to my doctor, who told me that unless I quit drinking, my liver would fail within a year. So I quit drinking. I had to go to Alcoholics Anonymous, take a vacation from work, and lay off the sex for a couple of days. Unfortunately for me, that last one was about to get a lot easier, as my liver had already taken some damage.

I arrive at work, and everyone clears the hall in front of me. I walk down the hallway, trying to ignore the stares and plugged noses, but I never can. Every day I walk down that hallway, and every day a little bit of me dies.

The liver damage made me unable to metabolize trimethylamine, meaning I would smell like fish for the rest of my life. Trimethylamine is a protien found in most meat products. But, like I'm really going to stop eating meat. I mean, seriously.

I sit down at my desk, which, as you can imagine, also smells a bit like fish. I begin working. I work harder than anyone else here, and never get a raise or promotion. But that's okay. I'm used to this sort of thing by now. No corporate big-shot wants to work around someone who has trimethylaminuria.

Because no one can stand to be around me, my boss thought it fitting to give me my own office. Which would be fine, if not for the fact that he had the janitor duct tape cardboard over the vents. Not only does this make the smell unbearable even for me, but I start to run out of oxygen around 4:30, and the powers that be won't let me leave the room until everyone else in my department has left the building, which has me leaving work at about 5:30, by which time my face has usually turned quite a strange color.

It's 5:15, and I sit in my office, wheezing. You know that feeling when you're drinking soda, and the bubbles go up your nose? Unpleasant, isn't it? That's what it's like right now, except it's been like this for the past hour. Just as I am about to slip into unconsciousness, I hear a click. The janitor has unlocked the door. I stumble across the room, open the door, and collapse onto the carpeted floor of the hallway, gasping like a fish out of water.

On the way home, it's rather hard to think straight. So many thoughts swirling around in my head, and yet no context for any of them.

Upon getting home, I go to bed, as it's a three hour drive. I settle under the putrid bedclothes, knowing that I must go through all of this again tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that. But please, don't cry for me. I'm already dead.

The novel Living with Trimethylaminuria is also available in paperback.
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