The Sounds I Make When I’m Alone

The sounds I make when I’m alone have started to annoy me to the point of distraction.

I have a cold right now, or a throat infection, or both. Oh, woe is me! I’m teeming with micro-nasties that result in a reedy wheeze every time I breathe out.

I’ve tried to breathe more shallowly. This doesn’t really work. The wheeze is slightly lighter but not gone and I get light-headed quickly because I’m a shallow breather anyway.

When I was in intensive care as a young teenager, the nurses had to turn the machine off that monitored my breathing. The alarm just kept going off all the time and the alarm was, well, alarming; overkill I’d have thought. They told me to breathe deeper and I would and the morphine would take over and I’d forget where I was for a second and the nurses would have to tell me to breathe deeper, giving me a terrible fright and I would have to wait for the morphine to kick in again.

When I lean over to pick up my dog or one of his toys off the floor, or when I put food into his bowl, I’ve started making noises that I have no real control over. “Oy” is the sound I make when I’m leaning down, or coming back up from leaning down. “Aye aye aye,” is the sound I make when I pull a muscle or find myself moving much slower than usual.

There are other micro sounds that are creeping into my repertoire, too. Now that I’ve noticed that I make these noises, I’m more and more irritated by myself. I don’t seem to be able to stop them, these annoyingly noisy tics; I only notice them.

Having hydrocephalus, I’ve also had tinnitus for as long as I can remember. Actually, that’s a lie. I remember the exact moment when it started. It had clearly been there before, but the moment an adult asked me when I was a young child, “Do you get tinnitus?” and then, when prompted, told me what tinnitus is, it was like magic – a dark, noisy magic. Bam! or rather ‘bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz’. When I think about it or whenever there are no other sounds around to drown out the buzzing going on in my head or in my ears – somewhere in that general vicinity, I don’t really know how it works – the continuous buzzing of high and low frequencies fills the silence.

I just want me to shut up. Perhaps that’s why I find I’m reliant on audiobooks and music and other auditory amusements. I’m trying to drown myself out. There was a time, in the not very distant past, when I was trying to drown myself out for other reasons. I couldn’t handle the thoughts in my head. I was trying to quash the creeping darkness. That felt like a losing battle, really. It’s easier to deal with noises than thoughts. My head is a more pleasant place to be now.

Tonight there’s a party happening on my street. It’s muffled enough that it sounds like it’s at least a block away. Later, people from that party will probably trip and stumble past my house on their way home or to town and there will be laughing or yelling and shouting. My neighbours sometimes ask me if I heard some disturbance or other the night before. I don’t know why I say no because I almost always hear it. Such welcome distractions from the sounds I make when I’m alone never go unnoticed.

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