Do you truly know what it’s like to not be able to hear properly?
To me it feels like being underwater.
My ears feel clogged, and there’s constant buzzing and roaring sounds that block out a mass majority of any other sound. The sounds I do hear are muffled and distorted to the point where I can’t make them out clearly.
People are speaking and sounds are being made, but it just doesn’t reach towards me. I’m submerged in a bubble of almost silence with only the whooshing in my ears to keep me company.
I want to communicate, but it’s almost impossible because no one understands.
It’s like being completely disconnected to the real world.
It’s also the reason why I feel so drawn to being submerged underwater. When I’m underwater I feel so detached from everything, but at the same time I feel normal for the first time, because that feeling for once in my life is completely natural.
From underwater I’m not the girl with the hearing problem. I’m just another person escaping from outside interferences.
But for how long can I really escape?
I always get the feeling of never wanting to resurface, but in the back of my mind I know that eventually I’ll need to breathe. My lungs will scream for it. And when I do resurface that first gasping breath will be the sweetest. It’ll remind me that as much as I want to hide from reality, all I can do is face it head on.
As long as I’m still breathing all I can do is continue on.
I wake up this morning with a fever, and the urge to toss out anything lingering in my stomach.
Yesterday had been such a good day. Yet today I’m sickly.
It’s like the universe is trying to say, “Hey, slow down now Klarrisa. You’ve been too happy lately. Here have this sudden sickness.”
After retching into the toilet for a couple of hours, it become apparent that I’m definitely not attending school today.
I go to lay back down on my bed after I brush my teeth until my gums are sore.
I hug the pillow to my chest as I close my eyes.
I try to focus on yesterday. The beach, the hearing aids, Skyler. I want to think about the sound of the waves, the sound of me crying, the sound of Skyler’s voice as he soothed me.
This stupid virus, bug, flu, or whatever it is, couldn’t have come at a worse time.
I actually did want to go to school today. Shocker I know. I want to see Skyler, and I want to test my hearing aids in a noisy environment such as school. I want to know the limits of it. Will it work among the chattering of superficial teenagers? Will I be able to hear my classmates and my teachers? For the first time I want that little bit of connection to society. I want to be able to communicate normally.
I guess it can wait. I feel restless though. I want to get up and go to school, but my lack of energy prevents me from even trying.
So I just lay here on my bed, and let myself become absorbed in thought.
Eventually I become tired and my eyes started to feel heavy. Before I give into my urge to rest, my last thought is, “I really wanted to see Skyler today”.
I’m underwater, just floating in the calming rush of clear, calm waters.
I can’t see the surface. I don’t know how far down I am, but I know I’m too far to escape. Not that I want to escape. I feel a sense of belonging. I feel at peace. This is the only place where I’m just me and not “Risa, the hard of hearing chick”.
My normally tan skin sparkles and appears as pale as porcelain. I can’t see my face, but I believe I must look beautiful, since the water always seems to bring out beauty. Or at least in my eyes it does. My hair seems longer as it flows around me in dark curly sections.
Out of the corner of my eye I spot a light. I paddle towards the white gorgeous glowing beam, feeling drawn to it like a moth to flame.
I feel no need to breathe yet. I just feel the need to get to that light.
It’s shimmering and pretty. It glows even more the closer I get to it.
I slowly inch towards it until I’m nearly there. I move my arms just a little more before I’m surrounded by the light. I can’t see anything other than its brilliance. I’m entranced by the brightness. I envy it. I long to be bright like it as well.
Suddenly I start to feel cold and the bright light turns to dark rough waters. The beauty, the calmness, the belonging- it’s all gone. Instead I’m trapped in a sense of anxiety and panic. I long to get to the surface.
I paddle my hands upwards, but no matter how much I try, I only sink further down. My lungs start to burn now. I need oxygen. I end up gasping in water. I can’t stop breathing it in. I’m drowning myself. I can’t breathe. The water is filling my lungs. I grow tired and helpless. My body starts to slow its movements.
I’m dying. I can feel it.
Just as I’m about to give in to the feeling of death, the bright light is back. Though this time it’s surrounded around an object, a person.
Skyler is swimming towards me, his handsome face even more handsome in the light.
The distance closes between us. He wraps me in his arms- surrounding me by the light. His mouth moves to mine, breathing oxygen into my lungs and expelling the water like magic.
“Risa,” He breaths against my lips, repeating the words over and over again. I feel something shake my body.
“Risa, please wake up.”
I open my eyes slowly, blinking as the light from the open blinds stains my face. I feel someone embracing me. My eyes adjust to see Skyler.
He looks relieved that my eyes are open.
“Thank god. You didn’t show up for school today. I was worried.” He says as he hugs me tightly.
I’m happy to see him, I really am, but that tight hug reminds me of how sick I feel. I push him away before running to the bathroom to puke my guts out.
Even though I didn’t want him to follow me, he does. He kneels down next to me, holding my hair back for me as I retch.
After I’m finished I feel embarrassed. I brush my teeth for ten minutes straight, before meeting Skyler back in my room.
I ask him how he got inside the apartment in which he tells me that my mom must have accidentally forgot to lock the door, since it had opened too easily when he touched the knob.
It’s an unsettling thing to know, but I’m glad Skyler’s here and that some creep or murderer didn’t get in instead.
I sign to him about not feeling good, though I’m sure he already knows since he just watched me get sick.
Skyler sits on the middle of my twin sized bed and I lay down across his lap. He gently strokes my messy hair as I feel myself flow in and out of consciousness.
Why am I always so comfortable around him?
Why is he always so gentle with me?
I fall asleep again. By the time I wake up it’s night and Skyler has left me with nothing but a note telling me to feel better.
I go back to sleep with a smile on my face.
When I wake up in the morning I still feel lingering nausea, but at the same time I feel so much better than I had yesterday.
I’m able to get up, take a shower, brush my teeth, and eat a light breakfast.
I get dressed for school, as always just throwing on whatever I feel like. I chose comfort over style. I let my hair hang down to my shoulders in messy waves.
I check my phone to see that Skyler wants to know if I’m going to school today. I tell him yes. Ten minutes later he texts back that he’s outside my apartment.
I put in my hearing aids, grab my school bag, say goodbye to my mom, and then rush out the door.
Skyler’s truck really is parked outside.
I smile brightly as I slide right into my rightful place in the passenger seat.
“Morning, beautiful.” He signs, but his deep, gentle voice accompanies his gestures. God how I’m in love with his voice even though I’ve only heard it a few times.
“Good morning.” I speak as I gesture back. My voice sounds weird to me, but maybe that’s because I'm not used to it yet.
After our greetings, Skyler drives off towards school.
It’s already Friday again.
I skip the first few classes because I start to feel queasy once we get to school. I just hang out in the nurse's office. Skyler hangs out with me.
The nurse pretends like we’re not there, but she doesn’t ask us to leave.
Around fourth period, I feel well enough to go to class. Skyler holds my hand as he walk to class.
I kiss his check before going inside the classroom.
We’re not together, but we might as well be. We don’t talk about what we are to each other or any of that. We just do what feels right to us. I kind of like that. Yet at the same time I’m nervous because I know that I still want more.
For the first time all year I can slightly hear the teacher as she talks. I feel better now that I can follow along more than what I usually can.
The only downside is that I can also mildly hear the nasty things the people closest to me are saying.
I ignore it though as if I can’t hear it at all. There’s nothing else I can do anyhow.
Lunch comes around quickly. I met Skyler at his truck. He bought a ginger-ale for me from the vending machine. We sit in the bed of his truck as I drink my ginger-ale, while he drinks an orange soda.
“How are the hearing aids working?” He asks.
“Good. Though I’ll probably go on Monday after school to my audiologist just to check to make sure it’s working right.” I reply.
For the whole thirty minutes of lunch break we talk about nothing in particular, just little things here and there. Besides that we just lay in the bed of his truck, Skyler’s arms wrapped around me and my head rests against his chest.
Eventually he informs me that the bell rang.
I head to gym class. I haven’t been going lately. I know that if I don’t start going now, I’ll end up failing. The last thing I want is to have to take gym class again next year.
I change into black cloth shorts and a white t-shirt in the girls’ locker room.
Today we’re playing dodge ball. Oh how I hate dodge ball.
I end up on a team with the three bitches. They think it’s funny to peg the balls at me instead of at the people on the opposite team.
I ignore it for as long as I can, but when I’m hit in the head and my hearing aid starts to squeak in protest, I finally have had enough. I march up to Paisley and her two lackeys.
“What the hell is your problem?” I snap at her.
“You, freak.” She responds back. Her voice is as shrill and high as I always imagined it to be.
I feel whatever bottled emotions I had before break free. “You think it’s funny to constantly harass me? You think it makes you any better than I am? I hate to tell you, but what you’re doing says more about you than it does about me. You may look like a model on the outside, but you’re so ugly and mean on the inside.” I tell her with a glare.
She retaliates by picked up yet another dodge ball and pegging it at me. I catch it.
“Stop it you spoiled brat. I’m so tired of letting you walk all over me.” I then look around at the people around us. “I’m so tired of letting everyone treat me like I mean nothing. I’m done with it. If you have nothing nice to say to my face, then just leave me the hell alone. Let me move on with my life. This is high school, not kindergarten so act your age. All of you.” I huff out, throwing the ball at the floor before turning to go walk off.
“You think anyone’s going to listen to you?” Paisley says as she grabs my hand and tries to pull me back towards her.
To my surprise someone intervenes, snatching her hand away from her.
The person who intervened is a tall wiry girl with thick rimmed glasses and a mouth full of braces. I can’t remember her name, but I do know she’s in a few of my classes. She always avoided me before, but she had never directly bullied me.
“I always sit back and let things like this happen, but I can’t anymore. Risa’s right. You’re treating her badly and it’s not okay. It’s not okay at all.” The girl defends me.
I hear a few people speak up in agreement wit her.
They’ll never know how much this little display of kindness means to me. I’ll probably never tell them either.
Paisley looks offended that anyone would speak up to her, but instead of arguing she flips her hair over her shoulder and stalks off.
I always thought things would never change, but maybe just maybe bit by bit things really will get better.