The Cochlea is the Root of All Pain

Hell is a lot of things. But, most of all, it’s being in a confined space with someone blasting the A Star Is Born Soundtrack. Not Judy’s, not Barbra’s. Lady Gaga’s. Or Stefani Germanotta’s, since it obliges her to be called such when putting on the “actress” hat. Grating beyond all description, it makes Marina want to pay the local psycho to tear her cochleas out for her so she never has to hear the fake Italian in question (clinging too much to her heritage because it’s what she isn’t) hit a shrill note again. But she knows she doesn’t have the money and that the local psycho probably isn’t as psychotic as he makes himself out to be (shouting at the top of his lungs that the poor will rise to eat the rich any day now–perhaps not knowing that there’s already a well-known shirt design, complete with zombie illustration and all, that has long ago explained this). The psychos, in fact, usually tend to be the teddy bears beneath their gruff exterior. Except in the case of Simone, who is the party responsible for blasting A Star Is Born in a confined space, specifically the living quarters she shares with Marina.

Ever since its release, the entire apartment has been filled with the harsh sounds of a woman only called a talent because she managed to make being a ho on the Lower East Side pan out for her in a way that few others were able to. And maybe that’s part of where Marina’s deep-seated contempt for this particular “singer” came from. For she herself had, roughly two years ago, passed that “age of acceptance” (now thirty) to make it in the music industry–which is, all her life, what she thought she was made to do. But hearing the A Star Is Born Soundtrack on repeat only forced her to arrive at the all too real conclusion that in order to be “successful”–not just in music, but in any artistic medium–you had to either surrender to the fact that the quality and integrity of your work must be sacrificed, in addition to, to be certain, any remaining shreds of dignity that might have led you to the point of “prosperity.”

She ruminated on this while forced to hear the lyrics to “Shallow”: “I’m off the deep end, watch as I dive in, I’ll never meet the ground/Crash through the surface, where they can’t hurt us/We’re far from the shallow now.” Funny, because Marina had never felt closer to shallowness upon hearing these lines, imagining their equally as bathetic delivery in film form. Composing herself in her unshakeable vexation long enough to pull the brush she needed from her makeup bag to apply her dark blue eyeshadow (the smoky eye effect was always what she aimed for, yet somehow only ever ended up with something more akin to a raccoon’s look), Marina resisted the urge to stick the backend of the brush into her ear in a swift stabbing motion. It would end all the source of her agony, to decimate her “bony labyrinth” in such a way as to get to the modiolus of the cochlea, and then its most core component, the Organ of Corti, the beloved receptor for hearing. But Marina did not want to “receive” any more messages, least of all of the auditory bent.

In fact, it had been the recent message she had been forced to receive from her now ex-boyfriend that was the straw that broke the camel’s back on her wanting to acknowledge much of any spoken words, for they seemed to bring her nothing but trouble, pain and an increased desire to die.

In the game called let’s pretend we have no emotions for one another, it’s important to never show your cards. Or at least not be the first one to. Marina had failed at winning this game, and that, in her estimation, was why Griffin had declared that he no longer wanted to “see” her, let alone hear anything she might have to say ever again, least of all any protests against Griffin’s desire to cut bait or pleas to “make it work.” Which yes, she had entreated, in all her pitiful glory. She couldn’t tell if she was doing it out of forced habit, or more succinctly, out of the passion that had perhaps only been imbued within her as a result of listening to popular music her entire life–the lyrics of which touted the existence of love and its potential to last forever. Thus, it was hard for her to tell if she really did dread the thought of living her life without Griffin in it (or if such a sentiment was what had been indoctrinated in her to “feel” as a result of her commitment to pop). Griffin, who had such small ears and was always telling her that she should sign up for various open mic nights throughout the city in order to keep her dream alive, to share her music with as many people as she could (especially the weird sort that actually left their apartments willingly to hear the rantings of their fellow denizens in a public space where no amount of alcohol could make anyone seem that interesting).

When she emerged from the bathroom, overly made up as a result of applying her products in a frustrated rage, Simone had reached the “I’ll Never Love Again” portion of the soundtrack, with Germanotta faux belting, “Don’t want to feel another touch/Don’t want to start another fire/Don’t want to know another kiss/Baby unless they are your lips/Don’t want to give my heart away to another stranger…” And when she saw Simone looking back at her strangely, she realized, suddenly, that it was because the tears streaming down her cheeks had smeared her makeup in such a way as to make her face look like a Rorschach ink blot. She felt utterly foolish, that the very soundtrack that had been ruining her life for the past week should make her aware of her true feelings regarding Griffin. That the sound of this manufactured-in-its-emotionalism music could make her feel something genuine. It was then she did what she knew both the local psycho and Van Gogh wouldn’t, taking a knife out of the chopping block on the counter and cutting off both ears.

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