Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Earlier today I was looking up information about hearing loss on the Internet. I’d had some ringing, and was worried. Heredity is one factor, I read. Exposure to loud noises another.
     A horrible racket started right outside my window. I got up and peeked through the blinds to see several construction guys in hard hats ripping holes in my street, shattering the asphalt with jackhammers, and yelling instructions.
     I opened the window and screamed at them to keep it down. Immediately, two burly guys in hard hats came over. They walked right up to my window and stared at me, eyes glinty as nickels.
     “What’s the problem, pal?” they asked.
     I wasn’t in the mood to mince words.
     “Can you keep it down with your cement mixers and plinth drills and whatnot? I’m trying to do some work in here.”
     This one guy’s chest was busting out of his wifebeater. He leaned over. “Look, I’m sure your beauty rest is real important,” he said in his accent, “but we’re working for the city out here.”
     “Just keep it down, you fucking fucknuts,” I yelled, and slammed the window.
     Most loss can be linked with damage to the cochlea. Hairs along the canal break or get bent, nerve cells degenerate. I could definitely hear a ringing.
     Two minutes later the racket started up. I started pacing around. I stood at the window and watched them breaking up the street with abandon. I went to the closet, got a bat, and started smashing everything in my apartment. I put holes in the wall with the bat, smashed the glass in the picture frames, ripped out the upholstery from the furniture, and stuffed it into my mouth. I jumped in the middle of the living room, contorting my body in impossible ways, windmilling my arms and bending myself in half. Agggg! I yelled. Uhhhhggg! Then I collapsed on the floor in a twitching, broken heap.
     I whimpered, “Keep it down.”
     There was knock at the door. I thought it might be the construction guys come back to finish me off. I crawled down the hall on my hands and knees, bleeding from the face. When I opened the door      I saw it was my friend Simon.
     “What happened to you?” he asked.
     “Nothing,” I said. “Everything’s great. Never better. Why do you ask?”
     Simon looked at me and shook his head. “Every time it’s like this.” His voice was muffled.
     “What?” I said. I went to the kitchen to get some grapes.
     “How come you’re bent to one side like that?”
     It was true: I was hunched over in a way that was positively inhuman. My shoulder was touching my hipbone. Jumping around had crimped my body in half. I made a claw of my fingers, scraped up grapes, and started popping them into my mouth. The ringing was much louder. I gave the grapes to Simon.
     “Thanks,” Simon said.
     I tried to straighten up. “If you don’t lower your voice,” I told him, “It’s going to get you too.”



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