Melissa Kite

Covid has given me a superpower

The virus has led to the ability to smell and taste what is normally hidden

Covid has given me a superpower
‘I miss the pong of wet dog’. Credit: DieterMeyrl
Text settings

Since recovering from Covid, I seem to have quietly been developing supernatural powers. At first I thought I had simply lost my sense of taste and smell, but a year on the situation is more complicated than that, I am starting to realise.

I can’t really taste or smell anything in the conventional sense. If I sniff and sniff, with my nose over a cafetière of coffee, or a pan of bubbling Bolognese sauce, I get nothing.

When the builder boyfriend comes home in the evening, I call up the stairs from the lower ground floor kitchen: ‘What does this smell like to you?’

I burn everything I don’t stand over and watch and I’ve drunk more gone off milk than I care to remember, realising only when I feel the lumps in my mouth.

My taste began to return, then it went again. Currently, it comes and goes. Sometimes, I fancy I can suddenly taste everything, ever so slightly, as if through a heavy cold, but the next day it has vanished and I’m back to a situation where eating has become so boring, I can barely be bothered. I’ve lost a stone.

I view it all as a small price to pay for having got over delta last summer and not caught any other kind of Covid since, suggesting I might have acquired lasting antibodies.

However, at some point I suppose I would like to smell and taste again. And I’m baffled as to why the medical professionals seem so uninterested in such a fascinating symptom that could well hold the key to what Covid really is, and, dare I say, where it came from?

It’s almost as if they either full well know why it destroys the senses, and are not telling us, or have no interest in this area of research because there is no money in it.

I think I miss taste more than smell. I can’t say there’s much about the world I would like to experience through my nose, now I have been forced to think about it. The idea of having to smell everyone and everything around me again seems too much of an invasion, somehow.

‘Don’t you wish you could smell flowers?’ a friend asked. But I have to say no, not really. It’s not flowers I miss.

If I miss anything, it’s the warm, primal smell of my horses’ fur when I press my face against their necks. And I miss the pong of wet dog, and my little cocker spaniel Cydney’s muddy feet, and even the varied emissions of our other spaniel, Poppy, who has a tendency frequently and rather lavishly to break wind.

I miss all that more than, say, flowers, because it has more meaning to me.

However, something is happening to my sense of taste and smell, which I can’t exactly describe as them coming back.

I began noticing it recently, when eating anything pre-packed in a plastic wrapping. While I could not taste the ham, or the chicken, or the cheese itself, I could distinctly taste the plastic, to an alarming degree.

It’s the same with shrink-wrapped vegetables from the supermarket. The effect these produce in my mouth, even when cooked, is of a chemical twang, to the extent that it has made me stop buying them in favour of loose produce from the farm shop.

The other day, I fancied a can of Diet Coke. I had always quite liked that sharp, saccharine flavour, if only as an occasional treat on a hot day. As the temperature soared to 20ºC, I headed to the One Stop with a craving. But when I cracked open the can and took a slurp, I spat it straight back out.

What I tasted I can only describe as like a mouth full of chemicals. It was as if I had drunk the contents of an experiment in a test tube. ‘What the hell is in this?’ I cried, and began reading the can.

My sense of smell is starting to perform in a similar way. While I cannot smell the top notes of anything, in the past few weeks I have begun to pick up undertones.

For example, when I opened up a brand new bottle of my favourite Chanel fragrance, which usually smells to me of jasmine, all I could smell was vanilla. I looked it up and vanilla is one of the base notes.

I have to conclude that, for whatever reason, Covid has given me the ability to smell and taste what’s usually hidden.

If I had been given the choice of a superpower, I suppose I would not have asked for an X-ray nose, or X-ray taste buds. But now I have them, I may as well make the best of it.