Misophonia-“hatred of sound”
As soon as the clock struck twelve, everyone murmured a tired ‘happy new year’ and went to their rooms.
Pauline flung herself on her bed, burying her face in the pillow. It had not been a good ‘old year’. Maybe it would be a good new year.
She got up tiredly and reached down below her bed, pulling out a box. From the midst of all the papers, she plucked one out and even though she had almost memorised it, proceed to read it.
I hope you are well. If you are getting this after 3 July, it means I am dead. They told me I could write to someone if I wanted and since I really didn’t have anything else to do, I thought I’d write to you.
I hope you are not sad about Uncle. I mean I never liked him much. It isn’t like I actively hated him. He was after all never rude, never yelled. Just said ‘no’ to everything in that flat disinterested tone of his without giving any reasons, without listening to anything. Just kept looking at you like you were an insignificant little bug that he had generously decided not to step on.
I never told you how I came to living with him, did I? I was 13 years old when one of the neighbours in the building accidentally started a fire in the middle of the night. I was at a friend’s house. They supposedly never woke up. Kept sleeping right through the smoke and flames.
I met Uncle Ronny the next day. He was tall, dressed all sophisticated and looked like a bull. A bull with beady little eyes. When I couldn’t reach my parents through the phone in the morning, I just shrugged it off knowing they would call later. Two hours later, my friend’s mother called me into the living room, where this man, sitting on the sofa, chewing on a biscuit very loudly, informed me calmly about my parents.
Aunt Milli was kind. Annoying, but kind. I remember eating that night the dinner she had made, swallowing so as to not hurt her feelings even though I couldn’t taste the food at all, while she hovered over me asking me every two minutes whether I wanted more. Uncle Ronny’s eyes were glued to the television paying us no attention.
I never brought my friends to my new home. It was an unspoken rule. The house was quiet. Too quiet, I think, for soon, even the smallest of sound seemed amplified and some cause a strange internal itching somewhere under my skin which I could never locate or reach. It was all very frustrating. Biting my cheeks helped at times. I think I had this dream once where I was in this playground and I opened my mouth and screamed and screamed.
Aunt Milli bought me puppy, Roxy but she died a few days later. Uncle Ronny announced it during dinner saying a car had run her down when I was at school.
I was glad when you contacted me after all these years. I had forgotten about any cousins I might have. I wish it had been your parents who had taken me in. We would have had a lot of fun together. And your parents seemed like jolly people though I doubt Uncle Ronny liked them too much. He just ate a lot of loud crunchy things whenever they talked. I was really glad when your parents on that trip and you had to spend two entire weeks here though I doubt it was that enjoyable for you considering you never stayed overnight again. But I am glad you kept in touch with me.
College was a big relief even though Aunty cried awfully and made me promise to come every holiday. So I did. I didn’t have many friends, but that was because all of them had annoying fidgety habits. All of them ate loudly and it made my skin crawl and jaw clench. So I ate alone in my room. One girl had this habit of tapping her fingers against hard surfaces. And once she started, it would go on throughout the day – tap… tap tap… tap… tap… tap tap…
One would bite her fingernails loudly, one would keep on and on humming. I loved the library. It was peaceful but not stifling. I loved it when we all sat together in one room and talked through the entire night for they were too busy to exhibit their fidgety habits. Thank goodness you never had any such habits. You did handle your cutlery a bit too loudly, but it’s not a deal breaker.
I had gone home during the last vacation. I got into a fight with Uncle Ronny. I don’t remember what it was about but it was the first time I had stood up to him and told him that I would have my way. Aunt Milli just stood by, her distress almost taking a tangible form, thick and heavy. Uncle Ronny didn’t say anything else that night and I went up to my room with my dinner.
The next day, I woke up late. By the time I bathed and came down, it was past noon. Aunt Milli was nowhere to be seen, probably out to the stores or feeding the pigeons in the park.
Uncle Ronny was watching the TV and eating. I loaded my plate and was about to head upstairs when he stopped me. “Come sit and eat with me.” He said. “We mustn’t fight for too long. We after family after all.”
After hesitating, I sat down for it seemed wrong to accept a peace offering. And it was the first time that he had verbally expressed any sort of familial sentiment. So I sat and bit the side of my tongue, trying to ignore the sound of his chewing. It just went on and on…