The Cruel Smell of Roses

Whenever I feel sad and lost and lonely in America, overwhelmed by questions like “Why do they stir their coffee with straws?” or “Why do they think ‘In God We Trust’ is not religious?” or “How is my money worth 60% of what it was when I got here?” I go for a walk around my neighborhood. It’s my alternative to buying a bottle of red wine and drowning my sorrows, because when I’m sad, I don’t know the meaning of “a couple of glasses to relax”.

It smelled of bath salts I bathed in once, when I was 15 and I accidentally went on a date with a preacher's son. True story.

It smelled of bath salts I used when I was 15 and I accidentally went on a date with a preacher’s son. True story.

So instead I walk around, smelling the roses. Orange is flat – it’s a lot like the Cape Flats except the streets are cleaner, there’s no crime, and the low-ceiling, two bedroom houses cost about R3-5million each. The smelling the roses thing started because I wanted to see which ones had a smell, and which ones didn’t. Then it was supposed to cheer me up.


Got to admit, this was sorta cute. A witch above my least favourite parking sign, which over the years has cost me about $120 in fines. In the USA, you actually have to pay your fines or they put you in County Jail eventually. No wonder their prison population is growing so fast when they criminalize you for being disorganized / poor.


A black cat crossed my path. Literally. And it’s got a really weird eye.

But my rose smelling thing always backfires. there’s something about the smell of roses that makes me terribly sad, these days. And it doesn’t help that it’s Halloween. I know it’s supposed to be fun, but the macabre shit all over the place just freaks me out. I don’t get it.

I find this in poor taste. But then again, I'm not American. I think the alienation this makes me feel is scarier than all of it.

I find this in poor taste. But then again, I’m not American. I think the alienation this makes me feel is scarier than all of it.

I can’t wait til it’s over and Orange can start redecorating for Christmas instead. The out-there Christianity is tiring at times, and the carols drive me up the wall, but at least they’re not terrifying.


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2 Responses to “The Cruel Smell of Roses”

  1. Vagina Dentata Says:

    Regarding your ultimate photograph, Strange Fruit indeed.

  2. Andreas Says:

    I have been reading Jean’s blog and Opinion piece on the News24 website. Unfortunately the only conclusion I can draw is that jean is a very angry and deeply unhappy person. She constantly criticizes American food, American culture, American traditions, American cities, American neighborhoods etc. As a someone who emigrated from South Africa more than 13 years ago, and am now an American citizen, I really find this very jaded and blinkered look at the USA so one-sided.

    Even when visiting the Central Coast wine region, one of the most beautiful parts of California, jean was so filled with criticism. jean – I hate to say this but you have become the South African version of the “ugly American tourist”. My challenge to you is go and find some beauty in California – and then write about it. You are studying an MFA, and if all that you are able to see is the ugliness in life, you are missing the point of art and storytelling.

    If you hate the USA so much why did you come to study here in the first place?

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