A Lull in the Storm continued…
avoid people. But Mum sometimes
insisted that I take some fresh air and
stretch my legs.
On one occasion she had sent me to do some shopping
at the local Co-Op. I thought to myself, At least I can
walk there and I’ll be as fast as I can. The sliding doors
opened and I got in quickly. A few seconds later I heard
a commotion by the entrance. I turned to look, and to
my horror all the cashiers and customers were fanning
their noses. I saw them frowning in utter disgust but
worse still, the security guard and another employee
were struggling to try and keep the sliding doors open.
They eventually managed to fold a heavy looking rubber
mat and put it between the two doors! When I brought
my shopping to the checkout, the cashier barely
acknowledged my presence and instead stared at me in
contempt. Needless to say, the security guard was
nowhere to be seen but he had found the key to leave
the doors open…
On another occasion, I had gone to the bank with my
mother. She had stepped in and as I followed her I
heard customers moan loudly:
“What’s that smell?”
The people queuing and the cashiers were all
grimacing in disgust. A lady who couldn’t stand the smell
had left in a hurry. A minute later, one of the
employees brought back an air freshener and sprayed it
upwards. A cashier had asked him to also spray it
towards her booth… That time, my mum had coughed
because she had caught a whiff of the overpowering
Later, when I had asked her if she finally believed
that I stank, she replied, “Don’t be so silly, nobody can
smell like that unless they’ve had a major accident in
their pants, and you haven’t, have you?”
The following evening, I cried so much on my bed. It
is not in my head, I thought. Then my mind ranted:
People’s reactions around me prove that my body emits
a foul odour! Yet the medical profession cannot find
anything wrong with me! How I wish I wasn’t born…I
hurt so much I don’t want to be part of this world
anymore! What is the point of me? I don’t live, I simply
exist. I cry myself to sleep every night. I struggle to
get up in the morning. I breathe with difficulty when
I’m in class because I’m scared if I breathe out too
much people will notice my smell even more. I’m not
rational any more: I can’t watch a romantic scene
without thinking, I wonder if the woman or the man
have bad breath like me? I seem to scare people: often
when I talk to someone they ‘jump backwards’ as if I
was going to hit them! People cough because of me…
Suddenly a little woman with curly pink hair, porcelain
skin and green eyes was stroking my hair. She asked me
what wish I’d like her to grant me. She had startled me,
but I managed to utter, “Please stop the ‘BOG gang’
from bullying me at school, but above all…”
As I was about to plead with her to make me smell
good forever, she flew away and shouted, “Sorry, little
one, I can only grant one wish!”
I was distraught for a while but managed to calm
myself down by reasoning, maybe if the ‘BOG gang’ stop
pestering me it will be because I don’t smell bad any
Once again, I dragged myself out of the car to get to
school. As I entered the classroom for my English
lesson, I noticed that the ‘BOG gang’ didn’t snort or
sneer. I sat down next to Emma.
I heard Olivia tell Gabrielle, “You don’t look yourself
today, are you all right?”
Gabrielle mumbled that she got up really late and had
to do everything really fast.
Then at lunchtime, when I saw her in the canteen I
thought she looked ill. Her hair was a little greasy and
she had a few spots on her face.
After lunch, we had History. The teacher played a
DVD about WWII. He had requested complete silence
and concentration, as we would have a test on the
subject. Generally speaking, we were sensible students
who had aspirations and determination to succeed in
However, five minutes into the movie, an
indescribable ‘fart’ was heard. The sound and smell
seemed to linger for ages! The reaction of everyone in
the room–including myself–was priceless: we were
startled at first, then we tried to stifle a giggle–out of
respect for our teacher–but mostly for fear of inhaling
more of the dreadful stench! Windows were opening
fast as if they were doing a Mexican wave and perfume
was being sprayed in every corner of the classroom. The
teacher stopped the film and ran out of the classroom,
claiming he had to go and get the answer sheets….
I was petrified because I thought everyone was going
to point the finger at me. But I heard someone complain,
“Olivia, what’s up with you? What have you eaten that
doesn’t agree with you?”
I was surprised to see her just shrug her shoulders.
She wasn’t as mortified as I was when I smelled bad.
Ten minutes later, order and breathable air were
restored in the classroom. But as the teacher pressed
the start button again, I thought, Uh-oh, another blast!
This one was louder, smellier and filled the room once
again. The teacher stopped the DVD and this time he
lectured everyone about the importance of being
respectful. He then told Olivia that if she needed to
leave the room she may do so without asking permission.
Five minutes later, Olivia stood up, left the room and
came back in after a few seconds. She did the same
thing twice. Belinda ordered her to fart in the class
first then leave with the smell and not the other way
round! Gabrielle protested that she had tried that but
it was “no good!” So they both agreed Olivia should stay
outside…or maybe go to the toilet.
The next day there was still talk of a ‘stinking bomb’
that had gone off in the History lesson. Olivia still
emitted some farts but only when she sat down or bent
over to pick something up in her bag. She apologized to
her friends for “that freaky episode yesterday,” and
told them, “I don’t blame you for spending some time
away from me yesterday because I wanted to spend
some time away from myself too: I’ve never had a
problem with the smell of my own farts, but yesterday
even I couldn’t bear it!”
Gabriella told Olivia, “My dad thought that it’s no
laughing matter because you could have a serious
problem like Fartilitis.”
I looked it up on the Internet, but I must have
misspelled it because I couldn’t find it.
Olivia became red with embarrassment and shouted
at Gabriella, “Thanks for telling your family, I won’t be
able to face them ever again!”
After lunch we went outside. The three members of
the ‘BOG gang’ were sitting on their reserved bench
while Emma, Matt and I sat on the grass, chatting away.
In the short distance I saw Belinda lifting her long arms
trying to reach her back. Then she jerked, touched her
thighs, belly and every part of her body.
We couldn’t quite work out what she was doing. We
thought she might be practicing some type of new
dance, a mixture of jive, Charleston or maybe just the
‘Head-shoulder-knees-and-toes routine.’ Then we
couldn’t see her anymore as a small crowd had gathered
around her and blocked our view.
Emma, Matt and I decided to go and check out what
was going on. As we approached the bench, Belinda was
still wriggling and her face was really flushed. She didn’t
look happy. Her two pals were patting on her back, arms
and legs. At one point Belinda reached into her beauty
bag, took out a comb and scratched herself with it.
Everybody was simply baffled…
When the bell rang we had to go to class and
reluctantly leave this weird but hypnotizing spectacle.
Olivia and Gabrielle returned to class fifteen minutes
late and without Belinda. They explained to the
Citizenship teacher that she had to go and see the
nurse. I felt bad for Belinda and hoped that nothing
serious had happened to her.
My moment of sadness was rudely interrupted when I
heard Olivia fart as she sat down. This one sounded like
a huge air balloon whose air is let out slowly. And it
smelled like a mixture of rotten cabbage, eggs and
prawns…I felt bad for Olivia too.
As for Gabrielle, she looked worse than yesterday.
Her hair was really greasy, her shirt was wrinkled and
her nails looked dirty. I felt sad for her because I
thought something serious might be going on at home.
She was always so immaculate.
On the way to the bus, I heard a student speculate
that Belinda’s skin was covered with lice and that’s why
her entire body was itchy.
Belinda returned to school two days later. Thankfully,
all three of them had stopped having those weird and
embarrassing ‘episodes’ and seemed perfectly fine. But
strangely they had stopped bullying me. They even said
hello to me! Wow, what a turnaround! I have to stop
giving them that ‘BOG’ nickname now, I thought.
Fairy had decided to cast the ‘itch curse’ upon
Belinda because she was tall, and it would look funnier to
see her long limbs wriggling all over the place. She
thought the ‘fart curse’ would suit Olivia better as she
had a larger derriere. And the ‘dirty curse’ was perfect
for Gabrielle as her appearance was always immaculate.
Fairy came back and took the ‘BOG gang’ aside…
“Belinda, how would you fancy another round of jerking
or twerking-whatever name you young people use? I can
make it happen in a jiffy: I’ve got some magical itching
Belinda shook her head vigoriously.
“What about you Gabrielle? Wanna try looking
dirtier? I can make little holes on your school uniform
or stick a few warts on your face if you like.”
Gabrielle bent her head and could be barely heard
declining the offer.
“Last but not least, Olivia: I can make you burp as
well as fart if you like. Same resonance, same bouquet-
that means sound and smell, by the way.”
Olivia curled up her lips and started to cry.
“All right, girls,” Fairy said. “I’m feeling generous
today: I will not put another curse on you, but there is
something you must do.”
The traumatized girls fell to their knees and pleaded
with Fairy not to cast another spell on them. So Fairy
made them promise that they would not be mean to
anyone and instead will spend the rest of their lives
being nice and helping others who are less fortunate
I hoped this was not another dream. I thought,Well,
I’ll find out if that blasted clock rings…
I switched on my laptop and Googled ‘disgusting smell
coming out of my body,’ ‘bad body odour,’ ‘fecal body
odour’…Bingo! There was a site dedicated to a metabolic
disorder called Trimethylaminuria (TMAU in short).
TMAU is a rare genetic disorder that causes a strong
body odour, which can range from rotting fish to feces
or even sewage. The odour is created when the body is
unable to break down trimethylamine, which is a smelly
chemical produced in the gut particularly when protein
and choline-rich foods are digested.
I cried with relief: Finally I had found a name for my
dreadful condition. But that was just the start of a long
battle. I went back to see my GP armed with all the info
I had gathered and asked for a urine test. A few
months later my test for TMAU came back positive. I
was referred to a Metabolic Disorder Consultant, who
specialised in TMAU. He explained to me what my
disorder was and gave me a diet plan to follow as well as
a prescription for antibiotics. He warned me that it
wasn’t a cure, but that I should see some improvements.
I felt a huge sense of relief and was feeling very
Once I knew that I suffered from TMAU and could
prove that I didn’t smell bad because I was dirty, I
thought it was time to tell my two best friends. I finally
took the courage to invite Emma and Matt. They were
surprised as well as delighted because they’d never set
foot in my house before. I had photocopied the
information sheets given to me at the Metabolic
Disorder Clinic. We sat down at the kitchen table.
Before giving them some refreshment, I handed them
the sheets–without uttering a word. I could see Emma
wiping tears with the back of her hand. Matt looked like
he was fighting tears: he coughed a lot.
My heart melted. Still, words could not come out of
my mouth. I was too embarrassed. After what felt like
an eternity, they put the papers down and looked at me.
I finally managed to tell them, “Listen, we don’t have to
talk about this today. You might need some time to
digest this. It took me…” I hadn’t finished my sentence
when suddenly Emma and Matt jumped off their seats
and gave me a huge hug. It was so comforting!
Emma gave me lots of kisses on the cheek.
And Matt turned my face towards his and said, “I’m
sorry, but I just can’t find any fault with you! You are so
cute and funny. I’m so glad you are my friend! Isabelle,
if you need me to do anything, please just ask me. And
from now on we talk to each other about everything
that troubles us, deal?”
Tears rolled down my face. I was so relieved that
they wanted to remain my friends.
But a little part of me was sad: it was absolutely clear
that Matt did not fancy me. I had to try hard not to see
him as the boy who gives the warmest hugs and
sweetest kisses, but it’s hard to control my dreams!
Well, I thought, I’ll try to control reality: chase away
those butterflies in my tummy every time I see him…
Things got back to normal after that emotional day.
There were no more awkward moments between the
three of us. In fact, at break or lunch times we spoke
about my TMAU disorder. Matt and Emma would hand
me sheets they had printed off the Internet, which
gave advice on how to deal with the disorder. Of course,
I already knew most of it because I spent all my spare
time researching TMAU on the net, but I loved the fact
that my friends cared about me a lot and wanted to get
involved with my treatment.
To this day, however, Emma and Matt refused to
admit that they had ever smelled a bad odour on me. “I
would never have hugged or kissed you if you stank!’,
they insisted. I’m sure they were lying, but I believe
they were scared of hurting my feelings. They really
care for me, so I’m not mad at them for hiding the
About a week later, on a fine Saturday afternoon, the
doorbell rang. I was in my bedroom, logged on to MEBO-
an incredible website that provides invaluable
information to TMAU sufferers.
“Isabelle, someone’s here for you,” Dad called out.
I was in my tracksuit, very clean as usual, but my hair
was barely combed and I was wearing no makeup. I
thought it would be Emma. She must have thought it was
now OK to pay me a surprise visit since I invited her last
week. I was smiling and humming as I started to go down
I suddenly fell flat on my bottom as I caught sight of
Matt. The surprise was too much to handle. I looked at
him sheepishly but tried to act as though I had meant
to sit down. Just play it cool, I ordered myself, “and
let’s pray that my little scream, startled facial
expression and red face that accompanied my fall were
not heard and seen by Matt!
“All right, Matt?” I managed to ask.
He looked bemused but replied that he was great and
on the off chance wanted to know if I fancied going to
the roller-skate park.
“Oh, yeah, I fancy you…I mean, I fancy your asking
me to go skating,” I stuttered.
“Are YOU all right?” Matt asked.
I managed to lie that I was out of breath because
I’d been doing some vigorous aerobics just before
coming down to see him.
He stared at my feet and simply said, “You should
wear trainers instead of flip-flops, you know.”
We arrived at the park and started skating. I found
myself breathing heavily. It felt like having a panic
attack. (I’d had a few in the past when I felt
claustrophobic.) How can this be happening, we’re
outside! I thought. I quickly realized that it wasn’t fear:
Matt had helped me with my balance by holding my
hands. Needless to say, the butterflies were having a
party in my tummy! I tried to shoo them away, to no
My breathing got even harder when I fell in his arms!
That friendship thing isn’t working for me! I thought.
After about twenty minutes, Matt suggested we sit
down on a bench. I was relieved, as my breathing was so
heavy. Matt was puzzled and stated that our session
hadn’t been that strenuous. I wasn’t tired, I was
Matt said that he’d had a long chat with Emma after
their visit at my house. Apparently Emma had told him
about the torment and humiliation I had suffered
because of the BOG gang’s bullying. He apologized for
not being aware of it and said he wished I had told him.
Then he looked me straight in the eyes and casually
said, “Sooo, I hear that you’ve had the hots for me for
Please, Ground, swallow me up right now! Emma, you’re
so dead! I repeated to myself several times until Matt
“Never in my wildest dreams would I think that a girl
like you would fancy a guy like me. I’ve fancied you for
ages but always thought you were out of my league. And
you always acted like one of my pals, you know, talking
about cars and football.’’
Somebody pinch me! I screamed inside. Please don’t
let this be another dream! Stupid clock, please don’t
ring! So many happy thoughts raced through my mind
but at the same time I was frozen with embarrassment.
I didn’t know what to do with myself! Suddenly, I felt
his warm and soft lips on my lips…
Matt and I became a popular couple at school.
Nobody ever dared bully me again.
In any case, I worked so hard at controlling my body
odour, and although there was no cure for my TMAU
disorder, I had noticed a lot of improvement. I followed
a new diet that is quite restrictive: it was a little hard
giving up prawns or tuna, but the toughest thing of all
was saying goodbye to my beloved chocolate! But I
accepted the fact that I needed to make a lot of
sacrifices in order to have a much happier life.
Anyway, who do you think I’d chose between
chocolate and Matt?
Antoinette Bibelow (Binette)