Sunday, November 29, 2009


From 3 pm until now I've been working on a short story, with only short breaks to take medicine and eat dinner. It's first time since the onset of this illness that I've had the time and energy to sustain writing for such a long period of time. (And now my brain is a bit fried, sorry if these sentences don't make much sense.)

I have been absent from the blog for a long time now, I'm hoping I'll catch up in the next few days.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

MALM 2, Naomi 0

I put up a good fight, but in the end the dresser got the better of me.

On the second attempt to put my clothes in the thing I was still smelling the fumes, less of them, but enough to make me slightly ill and extremely irritable.

My recommendation to those with chemical sensitivity: don't buy a MALM dresser. I've had no trouble with anything else I've ever bought from IKEA, so I don't want to knock them. And anything from the MALM line that doesn't have drawers is probably going to be fine. It was the inside of the drawers that were invincible.

Instead of shoving the thing out the window in frustration, we've decided to put it in David's room. David will be here soon for Thanksgiving and he has no dresser so that is a useful thing to do with it.

As for a new dresser for myself, I am giving up for the time being. I feel too traumatized by the MALM to risk myself again on another that will probably just break my heart in the end.

Fortunately I never got rid of my old dresser (if it can be called that). It is truly the ugliest piece of furniture I own, perhaps the ugliest I have ever seen, but it doesn't give off sickening fumes and for that I am grateful. I put my clothes back in it today and it felt nice to have them organized again.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


It’s been 10 days since my last post, and my readers must have been waking up each morning with one question on their minds: what happened to Naomi? Was she swallowed up by the MALM, or did she successfully cook it? Will her apartment ever rise out the chaos it has become?

Before I answer the question, I will remind my audience of where I left off. Unable to stay in the same room (i.e. my bedroom) with the new dresser that was making me ill from toxic offgassing, I decided to fight back by blasting it with space heaters until the fumes cooked off. At last report, I’d burned out the motor of one space heater, then decided that was good enough, I was going to put my clothes in the dresser.

HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA! O how sick I felt while attempting to line the drawers with eco-friendly, unbleached parchment paper. Sick and irritable and tired of sleeping on the couch and having my clothes piled up on my bed and in the hallway. I just couldn’t do it anymore. I wanted to throw the MALM out the window and watch it splinter into useless pieces on the sidewalk. It hardly mattered that it would never fit through my miserable little window.

For twenty four hours I was down. “What did I do to anger the gods?” I wailed. “Why me?” And then I woke the next day with a new outlook. “I can do this,” I realized. “Sleep on the couch? Pah! Live for another ten days in chaos, what’s that to one who has been through the ravages of seven years misdiagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, what’s that to one who has braved two years of the harshest double-dosed antibiotics, who has faced a daily injection into her butt for the past six months? Bring it!”

I set the second space heater on the dresser. My plan was simple: one drawer per day. If twenty four hours in close proximity to raging-hot electric coils couldn’t cook the fumes out of a MALM drawer, then I would honorably concede the dresser was the greater man.

Day one: in the face of intense tropical temperatures the middle drawer spews its fumes into the atmosphere, leaving me choking and gagging with each foray into the bedroom. By morning the smell had changed to a warm, woody scent with only faintest traces of a chemical overlay. I keep the heat on two more hours before switching to the next drawer.

Day two: my mother reminds me that drawers can be removed, thus making it easier to point the space heater directly at the little buggers. The battle intensifies.

Day four: all the big drawers have undergone the Treatment, it’s just the top drawers left.

Day five: in the early morning I enter the bedroom to find it cool and dark, Poet wrapped tightly under his quilt. What happened to the heater’s warm glow? What’s going on?

The second space heater has died.

MALM 2, Naomi 0

Or, if you look at it differently:

MALM 2, Naomi 5.

The only problem was, I was running out of space heaters, fast.

The source for space heaters is Fred Meyer. Who doesn’t love this box store, where you can also buy ice cream makers and lottery tickets? Each trip to Fred Meyer is a chance to win the Mega Millions jackpot. Let’s go.

Three trips later I:

a) hadn’t won the jackpot and

b) had returned more defective space heaters than I care to go into detail about.

The last heater I bought, the most expensive Fred Meyer had to offer, was going to work, I was sure. It looked beautiful coming out of the box, but wait, what was the big red tag on the cord? It read “Caution: this product has been covered in a protective coating to safeguard it during shipping. Upon initial use of the appliance the coating will dissipate into the air and let off an unpleasant odor.”

At that point, I began to believe in fate. Not destiny, but fate. It was my fate, I decided, to sleep on the couch into eternity, while my boyfriend slept in the bedroom amidst toxic fumes and the continuous roar of the air purifier, an endless battle of mid-weight household appliances, with IKEA furniture thrown in just for fun. Sisyfus would understand.

I accepted fate. I plugged the heater in. I set it on high. If my air purifier went up to eleven, you know I’d have put it there.

The bedroom stank. So much that the Poet even noticed the smell and agreed an open window was a good thing. Things stayed that way, in a time that was beyond time, that stretched toward all horizons, infinity, contained in a messy bedroom. I decided not to care, I decided I would live my life as if this were forever. (I really can’t tell you how many days it was, I just stopped counting.)

And yesterday the last of the fumes softly slipped into the air purifier and were gone.

As I write this, I am sitting at my new desk with my new computer. I am a foot away from the MALM. I am in the bedroom. The air purifier is on low, so low you wouldn’t know it’s running if I hadn’t told you, and I am breathing easy.

I haven’t put my clothes into the drawers yet, but one of these days I will, maybe even tomorrow.