One Last Word

By the end of today, I wanted to duct tape shut the mouths of the people I was with so they could not utter another single syllable. It was okay if their bodies were littered about my house and also okay if they talked to each other. I just couldn’t tolerate another peep, word, remark, insight, story, or question directed at me, no more expectation of my engagement or response. Let me be mute in a mute world of my making.

Now that the world has been made safe for introverts, I no longer feel queer and antisocial or guilty about such terrible impulses. I feel entitled. I draw the line at one too many questions, well, one is too many.

Today, “where is the mayonnaise?” yelled the interrogator, the single bulb swinging from the kitchen ceiling. “WHERE IS THE MAYONNAISE?”

I must have my rest from all this hubbub, I think to myself. I’ve overextended and must be alone to recharge. Excuses are there for the plucking. I pluck.

Friday night I went to a cocktail reception celebrating the university program from which I graduated many years ago. Such events are always challenging because of my hearing disability. Add a lot of glass, high ceilings, and dozens of people murmuring and it becomes a living on the edge crap shoot whether I will hear any particular individual. It’s like some folks come in on the shortwave even though they’re in a hut in Mongolia and others across the street are an indecipherable scramble of static with no consonants.

This makes mingling dicey.

The first person I ran into was himself wearing two hearing aids. Within minutes, he confirmed that the passage of thirty years had taken away none of his bloviating capabilities. It was comforting knowing that he would talk for hours unimpeded, like the Shelley Berman LP I played over and over in the basement of my childhood home, Shelley stopped when I lifted the needle. Shelley didn’t expect a response from me and neither did Mr. Double-Amped.

I’ll stand here ‘listening’ to you, I thought, but cognition is extra. You don’t have that kind of money in your thin little wallet, sugar.

I lasted ninety minutes. When I got outside, I wanted to lie down on the cobblestone walk and rest, make bystanders feel sorry for me so someone would cover me with a man’s heavy coat. Instead I fumbled in my too small bag for my phone and pulled out a flurry of dollar bills that went spilling in front of me like I’d thrown them at the young men smoking and leaning against the railing. I felt like an escapee.

At home, unfortunately, the din continued throughout the weekend. It is times like these when I am feeling the impulse to tie my companions to kitchen chairs and gag them with the new towels I bought just last week from Target that I realize that my ridiculously low threshold for social interaction, even with members of my own family, probably goes beyond simple introversion to some kind of diagnosable condition that has wearing a Stormy Kromer hat as one of its symptoms.

This isn’t a call for sympathy or empathy, the difference between the two fugitive to me even at this advanced age. I know if I called for either, you might feel compelled to talk to me. Don’t. I’m pulling the ear flaps down. I’m done for now.

21 Comments on “One Last Word

  1. I’m re-reading some of your oldie but goody posts and this is one of my favorites. I read all the comments, something I don’t usually do, and it struck me how misunderstood the term introvert is. Introverts are not sad, or shy, or fearful or lacking joy. We’re just “quiet…in a world that can’t stop talking,” the title of an excellent book on introversion by Susan Cain.

  2. I have hearing loss from a wireless headset, one ear is worse than the other. I don’t like parties with all that background noise and I prefer one on one conversations anyway. I’m an introvert with extroverted tendencies which pop up when I’m feeling more like talking, or joyful. Other times I prefer being at home speaking in sentences every once in a while. It’s always nice to go to a party for a few hours, but I wouldn’t my lise to be one big party. I like things to progress slowly.

    • It’s interesting that you have ‘extroverted tendencies.’ I’m with you about ‘speaking in sentences every once in a while.”

  3. Gotta admit: now that the world has been safe for them and introverts are becoming as vociferous about the superiority of their characteristics as vegans at a Cargill loading dock, I grow less sympathetic. But you aren’t asking for that. So I’ll just say how much I love your writing and your slant way of seeing things.

    Oh, and at Walgreen’s yesterday? The clerk said “ChrisTINE?” Yes, I replied. “No; first NAME, is what I asked.” Well, it sounds much the same, now I’m going deaf.

    • I can’t begin to tell you how many Walgreen’s type experiences I’ve had. Sometimes it’s not until I walk away that I realize what the person might have actually said. It can be hilarious or not. Depending.

  4. I would invite you to lunch, on condition we don’t have to speak. 🙂

  5. I have been an extrovert since I came out of the womb. I love to be around people, I am energized by social interactions. Or I was. Until I lost my hearing and wear these hearing aids. Now, I stress and struggle. I would rather be home with a few friends than in a restaurant or public place and battle the background noise/tvs/muzak/dishes/chatter. It is all too much. And I found that after I got my aides, I slept an enormous amount. I was exhausted constantly. There is a direct correlation, and I found many articles about it. It is because we have to spend so much more energy listening to conversations in order to hear and understand them, that we are overwhelmed and over stimulated so much sooner. Our brains work that much harder to tune out background din, something that with regular hearing the brain does for us, aides cannot. It has been a huge adjustment for me, a social butterfly by nature. I completely relate to this story. My husband knows when I hit ‘sensory overload’ and need to leave a place. My nerves get rattled and I just need to be silent. Thank you for sharing..

    • You are so right! It is EXHAUSTING. My husband is terrific about it and can tell when I have run out of gas. I’m not sure I’d be as mellow about it as he is.

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