The day I went deaf was the day I lost and gained everything. Well, maybe I should specify that it was only a kind of deafness. Likely a strain no one else had ever experienced. But then, I’m no stranger to anomalous situations. I suppose that’s just part and parcel of being born a hermaphrodite. My parents, like sensible people, however, opted for me to be a boy. Though I still maintain my dick would be larger were it not for that initial vagina getting in the way of its proper growth. I suppose an average size penis (six inches when hard!) is the least of my problems at this point, though.
It all began, as most sinister things do, at night. In that period of my life, I was forced to wear headphones in order to be able to sleep through the din of the upstairs neighbors and all their bombastically loud fighting that catered to a certain ethnic cliche. To worsen matters, they had two children that sounded like five–constantly screaming and never seeming to grow beyond the developmental age that should allow them to express themselves in any other way. I, subjected to the confines of a one year lease, had five more months to go before promptly vacating the premises and never falling for the aesthetic appeal of exposed beams again. Like so many, I had been duped as a result of inexperience and naïveté in terms of being more discerning with matters of New York real estate. And now, my ears paid the price at every turn. For I was well-aware that inserting headphones into my auditory canal wasn’t doing much to mitigate the problem of ear rape. But at least, on some level, I was choosing what kind of rape it was as opposed to letting the neighbors do it for me.
I had taken to listening, somewhat embarrassingly, Kate Bush’s debut album, The Kick Inside, finding, of course, “Wuthering Heights” to be particularly soothing for sleep purposes. And as I slipped the implements of light destruction in to drown out the sound of the latest shouting match and reactionary toddler wails, I woke up what felt to be days later with the realization that even though the album had ended, it was still playing in my left ear–loudly. To my utter and sheer panic, taking out the headphones did nothing to get rid of “Strange Phenomena” either playing in my mind or in some cruel strain of reality that had befallen me for simply trying to sleep in any semblance of peace. I had to tell myself it was all in my head, at first. While brushing my teeth, while preparing my morning coffee. That, surely, once I stepped out into the world and was forced to interact with people that it would finally go away. But no, stepping into the office to meet the assault of not being able to hear any of my co-workers as they likely tried to tell me about some bullshit synthetic experience they had over the weekend, I had to reconcile that something very, very wrong was happening. I could see their mouths moving, but only hear The Kick Inside playing in chronological order on a loop.
My only saving grace was that people’s dialogue in this particular setting was so predictable that I could make the appropriate head nods and “mm”s or “uh huh”s when necessary. But what was I going to do about my family? My friends? My girlfriend? How could I explain this? What doctor would believe me if I presented my case? Trying not to spiral into a panic characterized by hyperventilation and hysteria, I took an early lunch to attempt consulting the only type of person that might be able to either 1) help me or 2) at least believe me: a psychic.
Though the East Village area was rife with many options, there was always one that had caught my eye near Third Avenue, with a giant neon sign assuring, “CLAIRVOYANT.” Maybe that clairvoyancy could see into the future to tell me just how fucked I was right now. So, with “Feel It” playing in my ear, I walked into the joint, all blue velvet curtains and regal chairs in the waiting area. Expecting Madame [Insert Fake Name Here] to pop out any moment and declare, “I’ve been expecting you,” I was instead met with a nonplussed pale receptionist with a short black pixie cut dressed in a gray skirt and white button-front shirt. When had psychics gone so corporate? I guess any industry must in order to truly thrive. Thus, Pixie Cut asked, “Do you have an appointment?”
Or at least, that’s what I surmised she was asking me as I shook my head no. But the limits of my ability to intuit and lip read were quickly met as she continued on with some sort of spiel. Thus, I made the universal gesture for pen, hoping she could provide me with a piece of paper and a writing utensil. She seemed befuddled as to what I was trying to tell her being that, one supposes, Generation Z does not know what a pen or pencil is. Finally I exclaimed (I was always exclaiming after the day the music wouldn’t stop for lack of being able to hear what I actually sounded like–what decibel I was speaking at), “I’ve gone partially deaf in a bizarre and inexplicable way and this is a psychic emergency!”
Pixie Cut backed away at what she appeared to interpret as my verbal accosting. I swear to Christ if you don’t talk in a fucking whisper to women nowadays it’s like they’re all too ready to cry, “#MeToo.” It’s fucking bonkers. Mercifully, the goddamn psychic emerged in her red turban and silk kimono (which gave her the look somehow of being but merely a floating head) to intervene. Thank Christ. She was an ostensible baby boomer who could obviously comprehend urgency. She raised her hand to Pixie Cut as a means to calm her down and then ushered me into her lair with a wave.
With the lyrics to “Them Heavy People” telling me, “They arrived at an inconvenient time/I was hiding in a room in my mind/They made me look at myself,” I tried to tell Madame [Insert Fake Name Here] of my curious plight. At the end of my explanation, she shrugged, went into a back room behind the curtain and handed me a bottle containing some arcane clear elixir. It was probably flavored water knowing this racket. But with few other options, I paid the $300 for it, followed the instructions she had written out for me (“take it only after midnight during a waning crescent moon while wearing the headphones and listening to the same song you fell asleep to”) and awoke to find that, yes, a change had occurred. The Kick Inside transferred instead to my right ear. But I could still hear no human verbal communication on either side. The stirrup and the anvil and the hammer–what good were they to me now? How and when would this irrevocably start to affect my relationships? Was it possible that, at the bare minimum, I could at least have a conversation with Kate Bush since she seemed to be the only voice my ears would now permit me to hear? Oh Jesus, I’m really starting to hate “Wuthering Heights” and it used to be one of my favorite songs. I could sense that I was going to go mad in some typical Edgar Allan Poe fashion if this album kept up. So I went back to the psychic, who was genuinely apologetic (or at least an incredible actress) about the elixir not working, vowing to come up with, if not an entirely ideal situation, at least a better one. And that’s how the psychic started selling me something that couldn’t remedy my strange deafness but could change the album I was listening to forever on repeat in my increasingly particular cochlea.
After a while, I realized that my preoccupation with being able to hear what others were saying was actually quite foolhardy. Most of the time, they were truly saying nothing at all, just parroting headlines and stock phrases as a means to act in the expected role of human. I could see (and not hear) that all so concretely now. And I became a master at knowing when to react with an equally as banal response to whatever it was they thought they were articulating. In effect, it became like how I learned to stop worrying and love my deafness. Plus, I’m relishing listening to whatever formerly shameful music I want both headphonelessly and without anyone else being able to tell that I’m thoroughly enjoying this new Ariana Grande record.