“…it’s a ringing in my ears…”
i’ll never forget the very first time that i heard that “old,” suzanne vega, song. i was living paycheck to paycheck, at the time, but i lived in the best living situation, that i’ve ever experienced.
i had just broken up with, wendy, in 1992. i was in the process of moving out of our beautiful, downtown, la mesa, california loft. it was a beautiful place located right in the middle of “our,” little la mesa…directly above a printing shop, next door to por favor, and across the street from the bakery…and, every morning you could smell the bread baking, it was a wonderful way to wake up.
our loft was really big, it was open concept, had lots of exposed brick, sky lights that opened with the use of a long, hooked pole…lots of light two big bedrooms and a bathroom…each bedroom had a big window, that you were able to climb on top of the built-in bookcase, and get out of…and, there you would be, on top of the roof of our building.
we used to go up there during the oktoberfest celebration and watch all of the crazy people and festivities…eventually, we got caught doing it and got into “trouble,”…stop, or face eviction…we stopped…and, in our defense, nobody told us that we couldn’t do it when we moved in there…but then again, i’m guessing that nobody else ever thought about doing it other than us.
i remember that one night, my whole world changed. i found out that there was infidelity going on in my relationship and i ended it. that was a horrible night, because i picked up the only alcohol that we had in the home and began drinking it. it was rum. i drank the whole bottle and got sicker than all fuck…also, at the time, i was still a smoker…who was smoking kuta kretek, clove cigarettes with her rum.
you have no idea how those two flavors taste, when mixed together…i don’t recommend trying them. it’s now, twenty-five years later and i can still remember that god-awful taste lingering on my lips, tongue, and back of my throat…and vomiting just amplified and intensified the effects. i’ve never ever touched rum again, or drank to the point of being intoxicated, or throwing up. i learned my lesson. now, i very rarely have one whiskey sour at the casino, because i take so much medication.
anyway, i didn’t really sleep a wink that night, just laid there being sick, and watching the fan blades spin around. i got out of bed really early the next morning and headed to our neighborhood vons grocery store. i did a little shopping and walked out to find my car in the parking lot.
on my way to the car, i spotted one of my best friends and one of the people from my four years of carpool to lutheran high school…my friend, r**h. we talked for a little bit and she told me that her dad was the property manager for christ lutheran church, in la mesa’s properties. she also told me, that she was the apartment manager for the apartment complex, that was located right above the church, and happened to also be owned by the church.
she gave me all of the details and told me that she would put in a good word for me, but i wasn’t too hopeful, because her dad drove one of the legs of our carpool and he never liked me. he thought that i was a bad influence, on r**h, and he was probably right. i remember that the first time that i ever tried smoking cigarettes, was with her.
our high school was located close to downtown, san diego, california…at the time…it was at 54th street and orange street, to be exact, right by crawford high school. anyway, r**h and i walked up to a donut store that was about six blocks away from our school. we went there, because i was still a freshman, and thirteen years old. i wasn’t capable of walking into a store and buying them yet, but i remembered that there was a cigarette machine, at this particular donut shop.
i approached the cigarette machine, like i knew what i was doing, while, r**h, bought donuts. i put the money in and froze, as soon as the time came to make a choice. i had never smoked before. i knew that my grandpas both smoked, but i couldn’t remember which brand.
i looked at all of my choices and went with a soft pack of kool 100’s. and that was probably because of the name, kool, with a “k”…the color of the pack, turquoise and white, was very visually appealing to me…the 100’s, because you got more “bang,” for your buck. i quickly fished my purchase from the bin, put it in my backpack, and r**h and i started walking back to the park that was across the street from our school.
we tried smoking our very first cigarettes there, in the park. i came prepared, as i brought some packs of matches from home. i had always seen my grandpas both pack their packs of cigarettes before, but didn’t know how to do it, or why…so, i just kind of “faked it,” to look like i knew what i was doing.
we each took a cigarette. i lit hers first and then mine…and, all i remember is that we put them down, just as quickly as we picked them up. we both choked, coughed heavily, threw them down, and immediately stepped on them. i don’t know if r**h ever picked up another cigarette, in her lifetime, but i didn’t pick up another one, until three years later.
i was sixteen…and, in la-x on an eight hour layover by myself, when i flew to tucon, arizona…to bring my grandma back, so that she could still live in her own apartment with my help, instead of being placed in a nursing home. i bought a short, soft pack of regular camels, “fell in love,” and did nothing but word search puzzles and chain-smoked for eight hours…and, that was the last time that i had a cigarette, until i was twenty-three and lived with wendy.
anyway, i was very surprised when i received a call from, r**h’s father, telling me that he had approved me to move-in to the apartments, at 7917 – b la mesa boulevard, la mesa, california, 91941.
the apartments were really interesting. there were a total of four buildings. one building had all studio apartments. one building had all two bedroom apartments. one building had all one bedroom apartments. and, the last building, used to be the parsonage. it was enormous and used to be one house…of course it had been changed up a little and modified to become three, one bedroom apartments. each of these apartments were completely different, but enormous and with beautiful vintage features.
my apartment had a coved, plastered ceiling, an archway, and some really great recessed, built-ins. my neighbor on the right side got archways and a beautiful art-deco fireplace. my neighbor on the left side, l***a, had beautiful craftsman styled windows and french doors. i of course, had the fantastic and gigantic, middle apartment.
it was very interesting how everything ended up working out. my friend, r**h, went to high school with me and was my apartment manager. and, my friend, l***a, who also went to high school with me, was my neighbor directly to the right of my apartment. her apartment was attached to mine.
like i said earlier, that was the very best living situation, that i ever had, because even though i had just had my heart broken…i had an instant and immediate friend base and support system, which was incredibly awesome!! i also met two guys that continued to be really good friends for years…c*****e and c***s. for as “crazy” as we all were there, we were a close knit, family-type unit. we all liked each other, tolerated each other’s idiosyncrasies, did things together, and got along really well.
see, i get so distracted by all of the details, that i just lose myself, my train of thought, and everything suddenly becomes relevant and part of the story…when in all reality, it could really just be several stories, instead of all ending up as part of the same one.
i absolutely know, that other people hate it…that people get bored and lose interest, but i do it for me…i like it and i enjoy it…this is me, how my mind works and as long as i like it, that’s really all that should matter.
(but here’s the thing, i also don’t want to overwhelm anyone, so, i wrote a more “concise” version of the same story .)
i just find it amusing, looking back over what i’ve written and seeing how everything is both, so interconnected and disjointed at the same time. it’s interesting for me, to see how my mind eventually brings me full circle and back to tying up my main point.
anyway, as i began saying way back at the top of the page, i was living paycheck to paycheck, but really enjoying my life, my activities, and my friends. i found ways to stretch my budget and make things work. along the way, i did take some “shortcuts,” and did somethings that i wouldn’t of course do now, but i learned from my mistakes…one of them being bad credit, at the time.
i did stupid things like joining both bmg and columbia house music clubs, and used my cat’s name on the account to get ten, “free” cd’s. and yes, i know that, that is incredibly bad and naughty, but i did it and i’m owning it.
i remember that one of my ten “free” cd’s was suzanne vega’s, 99.9 fahrenheit degrees, album. i remember that i had my friends, n*****e and d*****h, over to hang out for awhile. d*****h had some weed and made a joint.
i remember being shocked, because i was afraid that my friends from the complex would somehow find out, or smell it, or that i would get evicted. i freaked out, because i didn’t want it in my apartment. that was something that wendy did and i was sick of it.
i’ve tried for many years, to set and enforce boundaries. i haven’t ever been very effective at doing so, but, i’m finally getting much better, in my old age. there was no talking, d*****h, out of rolling and smoking that joint.
unfortunately, that was a precursor of things to come in the future, as she eventually ended becoming one of my roommates for three years. d*****h smoked her joint and i ended up taking one hit, because i believed that it would, “take the edge off,” of how i was feeling…she told me that and i believed her.
what i was told and what i experienced, were two completely different things, exact polar opposites, in fact. i was told that i wouldn’t have a care in the world, that i would be mellow and peaceful.
what i felt was incredibly paranoid, upset, and feeling like i was having a heart attack…which now that i’m older, wiser, and more experienced…i’m relatively sure was a panic attack. i remember that she just kept laughing at me and telling me that i was just, “so silly and melodramatic.” she opened my new cds and loaded my five disc changer.
i felt like i was melting, like i had a really high fever. i was sweating profusely. i stumbled to the linen closet and grabbed a washcloth. i soaked it in some ice cold water, didn’t wring it out, and just sloshed the whole thing onto the top of my head. the water was everywhere. it soaked my hair, ran down the back of my neck, and soaked my shirt.
i knew that the water was ice cold, but it felt hot to me. so, i began removing my clothing. i grabbed my fan and locked myself into the bathroom. i laid down in the empty tub, adjusted the fan, and used a spray bottle to mist myself. it didn’t help.
as i lay in that tub melting and feeling like i was going to die, i began hearing the sound of my own heartbeat, inside of my head, or thinking that i heard it…whatever the case happened to be.
i heard the music coming from the living room, through the door, and directly into my mind. i heard and understood, each and every line of the lyrics. it both thrilled me, because it described kind of what i thought that i was experiencing…and, terrified me, because it described kind of what i thought that i was experiencing.
the song seemed to go on and on, and on…it seemed to go on for as long as i was experiencing my experience…it was weird.
i don’t know how long i laid in that tub, but i was hastened back to “normalcy,” with a not so subtle jolt. i watched as the door opened in what appeared to be, “slow motion.”
i heard the familiar, deep voice, as the door continued to open.”hellllllllllooooooooo, in there…” i instantly knew who it was and i instantly felt “saved.”
yes, i had stripped off all of my clothes…except for my bra and boxers…and i was lying in an empty tub…melting, sweating profusely, and misting myself with the fan.
the voice, resounding and reverberating…definitely deep…definitely male…definitely c*****e.
i just continued to lie there, doing what i was doing. i made no effort to move or to cover myself. i was neither embarrassed nor ashamed.
i was in the best physical shape and condition of my life. i was muscular, fit, the perfect weight for me, and i was pretty good looking. i liked me a lot!! a lot of people liked me. c*****e liked me.
here’s the thing about c*****e…c*****e was one of only three straight men that i could trust implicitly with my life. the other two were d***d and n**l. but c*****e, i could’ve married and spent my life with.
i knew that he loved me and had my best interests at heart. he always protected me and kept me safe. he cooked for me and cleaned my apartment. sometimes, he even did my laundry for me.
for as “perfect” as c*****e was, he was also one of the types of people, that triggered extreme flashblacks, fear, and anxiety, in me. he was an alcoholic. he always had a drink in his hand and even though he made me feel safe…that part of him, scared the shit out of me.
anyway, c*****e came in with a towel and ice water for me. he was an incredible germaphobe, but he sat down on the bathroom floor, rested his arms on the side of the tub, rested his head on his arms, and just talked to me. he talked me through all of the anxiety and panic. he was calm and nurturing.
when i felt better, he helped me up and out of the tub…and, put me to sleepy-nighties…tucking me in and kissing me on the forehead.
when i was still in montana, i heard what sounded like a loud pop inside of my head, and my right ear began roaring. i was seen by many specialists and had many scans done. they found that there was nothing physically wrong with my ear, nerves, or brain. it was a mystery.
c*******e, the schizophrenic woman that i was talking to for awhile, told me that a lot of people with this particular problem kill themselves. for some reason, that statement has always stuck with me. i guess that i could understand how the constant noise could drive a person to that point.
in october, i had another incidence of having a loud popping noise inside of my head. afterwards, i was very dizzy, my hearing was more diminished, and the roaring in my ear was even louder. i went to specialists here in nevada. i had all kinds of scans and examinations performed. everything again, was physically fine, nothing wrong. i was completely frustrated.
i began talking to m****a in november and told her about my problem. i was excited when she told me that she may be able to help me. i thought, “hey, she’s practically a doctor…” yes, my then “girlfriend” was a coroner and mortician…she had tools…she had a doctors kit. i was excited to try something else. i thought,”well, it couldn’t possibly make anything any worse…”
so, i arrived in iowa and was enjoying my visit. toward the middle of my stay, m****a, noticed that i was having a really hard time hearing and being able to fall asleep /stay asleep at night. she told me to lie on the bed, on my left side. i complied and she used one of her lighted scopes and some really long forceps to go probing around in my ear.
i was fine, yeah, i was uncomfortable and a little scared i guess, but fine. she told me that she thought that she had discovered what she thought might be the issue. she told me that she saw a strip of linen (from an ear candle) attached to some part of my inner ear. i don’t know the details and i never saw what she was talking about, because she didn’t get it out.
quite honestly, i don’t even know if there was even anything in there, because if there were, surely one of the specialists would have seen it, right? anyway, i gave her my permission to yank it out and get rid of it. so, it felt like she probed a little deeper and either pushed or pulled a little harder…and, i went from being mildly uncomfortable to being in excruciating pain.
it felt like what i would imagine getting stabbed through the ear drum with an ice pick would feel like. i was lying on the bed writhing in pain, asking her to, “please stop…” i felt a fullness and throbbing in my ear. i felt my ear filling up with liquid. i investigated and it was blood. m****a looked at me and said, “oh, you’re bleeding a little bit.” i thanked her for trying and tried not to think any more about it.
once i arrived in nevada, i noticed how much different everything had become with my ear. i’m not blaming her for anything. i’m sure that she had nothing to do with it and that it was only an accident or a coincidence. i’ve noticed that i really can’t hear anything at all out of my right ear. i’ve noticed that the roaring is so loud, that i can’t sleep at night. i can only sleep for a few hours at a time, before the roaring wakes me up again.
in order to sleep at night, i have to sleep with my ear buds in and have my spotify or netflix cranked up to cancel out the roaring sound. it’s awful really!! it fills my head. it makes me dizzy. it makes me very frustrated and a little confused sometimes. i always go back to what c*******e said…and, i can completely understand how the constant roaring could push anyone over the edge.
so the other night, i put my ear buds in. i put my spotify on shuffle and cranked it up. it’s funny because as i laid there with the constant sound of the roaring in my head…clutching my c-pap hose and trying very hard to just listen to the music, be present and mindful, and try not to have a panic attack…a very familiar song came on…blood makes noise.
i thought that it was interesting, because it seemed that suzanne vega and her song seem to always come on, when i’m having problems with my ears or my hearing and trying desperately not to have a panic attack. i guess that that’s irony for you…fucking circular irony.
(now, just so you know…this was actually the original version of this story. after having a talk with my therapist about trying to be more concise and to the point, however, i decided that it would be better to whittle the story down further…and, to try to get rid of all of the extraneous details that i love so much…and, that other people hate or don’t see a need for. and it’s now 5:30 am, i’ve been up since 3:10 am…listening to the roar and writing to try to forget about it. i saw this original version of the story just sitting in my drafts folder. i decided that it was 2200 words of a very long story that i took the time to write…and, why just leave it sitting there…sadly. so, i took the 2200 words and have been writing for the last two hours…and have added at least 1500 more…all absolutely unnecessary, i guarantee you…enjoy your day!!)