Swish ThumpThumpThump Swish ThumpThumpThump Swish ThumpThumpThump
The noise reverberates inside my brain: I can’t process, I can’t think. My ears hurt. My skin crawls.
It’s late. My friends are playing a game of cards, making noises in the still cabin; it’s driving me crazy. I open my mouth to ask them to stop, but no sound comes.
I stare at the wall, will myself to speak; try to block the noises with my hands, hoping it’ll make things easier. I think it does, because after a moment and far more effort than I can express, I manage to say:
“Stop making that noise!” it stops, but now they are staring at me. I have a feeling I spoke too loudly and too rudely. Trying to fix it, I add “Please.” and then “It really bothers me”.
“We aren’t all that loud”. Isa says “It’s not going to wake up your parents, don’t worry”
She’s sweet, but she doesn’t understand.
“I know, but… Can you tone it down anyway?”
“We can’t play the game without making some noise”
“Then let’s play another game. Come on, I know tons of other games! We could play canasta, for example” As I say that, I’m aware I’ll have to stand the shuffling some more, but at least it’s a longer game, so the noises will be less frequent. I think it’s a pretty good compromise: they change the game, I let them shuffle. Apparently they don’t agree.
“You know, people won’t stop doing something just because it bothers you” Sam says.
“Yeah, but you are not some nameless stranger in the street. You’re my friend, can’t you please stop?”
“Yeah, sure thing, your highness”
They stop. We play something else. But they are upset, they think I’m being unfair.
A similar thing happens when my teacher uses a microphone in class. It’s too loud: I can’t listen to her, or think about what she’s saying. My ears hurt. I can’t leave because this is an important class and exams are close.
First I put my favourite sweater on. Then, I start rocking slightly. It’s still not enough. It feels like I’m using a needle as a swab. Finally, reluctantly, I cover my ears. I’m well aware of how I look – rocking back and forth and covering my ears – but for now it’s worth it.
I’m not really alright yet, but the teacher’s voice is muffled and my ears don’t hurt as much. I’m not getting much of the class, because my brain is still ringing, but I can now assess what she’s talking about. If I can just keep my gaze steady and my mind as focused as possible, I’ll be able to study this at home and still understand it. I think I’m doing well. Until…
“Hey, what the hell are you doing?” The guy sitting behind me asks. I ignore him. “Are you rocking back and forth? Dude, she’s rocking back and forth like a four year old!”
“Aw, little baby needs her mommy?” his friend says.
“What a freak”
“Looks like a retard”
“Are you autistic, freak?” he hits my head. I jump. Even though rationally I know he didn’t hit me hard, it burns through my skin. He seems to think it’s funny, ’cause he does it again. I start shaking my head, trying to shake his hand off, but he just laughs.
There are hands on my arm, now. Invasive, scary fingers, crawling through my skin like a spider. I only realise what they are doing when my arm is yanked away from my ear. The noise of the microphone reaches me – the clueless teacher keeps talking, probably thinking we’re only messing around at the back. There are needles in my ear again, a baseball bat coming down at my head and finger-shapped cold burns in my left arm.
Finally, they stop. “Freak” is the last thing they say. The whole thing must not have taken more than a few minutes, but I’m shaken to the core. I can still feel them, touching and hitting and mocking. I can’t stop rocking or shaking my head; my hands clutch my ears so tight it almost hurts. The class is completely forgotten.