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Myrtle BeachI got home today after being away for a few days on a mini, mid-summer vacation to the one-and-only Myrtle Beach, South Carolina — home of The Pavilion, way too many arcades and a brand new Mirror Maze that left me completely disoriented for a good hour. This little town is the setting of so many of my best childhood memories, and I cannot wait to create brand new memories there with my own kids one day.

As I took a cab home from the airport, my mind raced with all the things waiting for me at work. Reports, meetings, presentations and case studies await me on the “other side,” and I know full well that I need to snap out of vacation mode and back into regular-life mode in order to pull this transition off. Then, like clockwork, as I dragged my sand-filled suitcase out of the elevator and onto the fifth floor of my apartment building, reality hit me like a ton of bricks: I have annoying neighbors.

You see, apartment and condo living is a twisted form of community that often leaves one wanting more. Neighbors in these settings can often be inconsiderate, noisy and just plain rude. Like that time my neighbor threw an all-night bash complete with bass-thumping club music until two o’clock in the morning. Or that time my other neighbor bought a puppy and left the poor thing to whine for hours on end while her oblivious owner was at work. Or that recent episode when yet another neighbor, on a apparent quest to make it big in Nashville, took up guitar lessons — electric guitar lessons — and really took his teacher’s advice to “practice, practice, practice!” Neighbors can be annoying! And today was no exception.

As soon as I stepped off the elevator, I got a whiff of a nasty, repugnant scent that nearly floored me. I shook my head in disbelief.

What is that smell?

I quickly walked down the hallway toward my apartment, the smell only getting stronger.

Ugh! I can’t take it!

It was trash… combined with rotting food… combined with…

Help! I can’t breathe!

And then, just as I got to my apartment, a light bulb went off in my head. My mind began to run helplessly, like a hamster in a wheel. I backtracked, I wondered, I started to freak out a little.

Um… uh… did I remember to take the trash out before I went on vacation?

No… it couldn’t be.

Me?

All my questions were answered in an instant when I swung my apartment door open and took in a horrifying odor akin to what it might be like to camp out on top of Fresh Kills in the middle of August.

So, yeah… it was me.

I instantly and frantically took the trash out, opened windows, sprayed Lysol Disinfectant and air freshener, lit candles, turned on the fan, and washed out my garbage can. And when the disgusting smell was nearly gone and the air was breathable again, I settled down, unpacked my computer, and tried to get some work done — four scented candles forming a perimeter on my desk.

Somewhere between that one report and that other presentation, however, my mind started to wander.

That debilitating smell of rotten food might as well have been rotten flesh. I mean, who’s ever actually smelled a dead body anyway? We all assume we know what it’d smell like, but we’re not on a CSI team. I’m not Richard Castle, though I wish I could write like him. You and me? We’re not Benson and Stabler.

Benson and Stabler

For all we know, the smell wafting down my hallway for the past two days could have been my dead, rotting body, just laying here alone in my apartment waiting for somebody to come find me.

I could have died in my sleep, dreaming of a world where Mark Wahlberg stars in romantic comedies with Jennifer Lopez. Or I could’ve been attacked by a very agile robber who can scale buildings to break into my upper-floor window. Or I could’ve been shocked by the state of reality television causing my heart to stop right here on my old leather couch.

Bottom line is: I’m dead. Kaput. Finished. Finito. Dunzo. And nobody was worried about me. Nobody came to check on me. Nobody called the landlord in the middle of the night to demand we break the door down because something is most definitely wrong! Rigor mortis set in and my body started to decompose and putrefy, yet no one wondered, Hey, where’s Ruth been lately? (Confession: I may watch too many crime shows on TV.)

So the story goes: I forgot to take out my trash five days ago, and now I’m really sad that I’m single and don’t have anyone to worry over my dead body. Because if for nothing else, we all know a boyfriend is good for checking in on his lady after a few nights without that something-something. (I’m talking home cooked meals, people!)

Any men out there willing to date me as part of a mutual agreement that we’ll check in on each other every 24 hours to make sure we’re both still alive and kickin’? Remember, it’s never too late to save a life.

~Ruth

P.S. Sorry, Tamara. I tried, but I’m over Pinterest. It’s lame.