I wrote the following autobiographical piece in 2008, and it was published in a literary anthology that same year.
LISTENING WITH MY EYES
I just like the title. It fits–I’ve always been totally deaf in my left ear. I sit before the screen, nauseous from four cups Java Delight coffee, and two cans of Steven Seagal’s Lightning Bolt. The Soundtrack from Interview with the Vampire rests in the CD player. But the DVD slot lies empty–so many movies, I can’t decide.
My left ear is pointed, like Mr. Spock’s, as if to indicate its uniqueness. That doesn’t work, though–no one notices. My singles-group acquaintances still wonder why I can’t hear the waitress. Some, like Barb, subtly ridicule me: “Over there, Scott! She’s talking to you, Scott!” Barb is a gorgeous redhead, covered with freckles. But that’s all. I may lose any chance with her, writing this, but have none anyway. Simply put, her personality fits her name–Barb. If you’re half deaf, you can hardly make out anything in public–the good ear does not compensate. I try lip reading, but can only identify bleeped-out profanities on TV. Still, I practice, in restaurants, at parties–yet end up missing it.
I wish to God I’d have been there–wouldn’t anyone! Uncle Robert stood in the greeting line at a church. Dozens shook his hand, so many that, when a man finally said, “My wife just died,” he replied, “Well that’s great–congratulations!” It wasn’t until many hours later that Uncle Robert realized his mistake!
Crowds confuse! The only way I enjoy them is drunk! Even at these readings, I forget names, and hope I won’t be tested! One’s name, according to Dale Carnegie, is the most important word of all. He’s right–who doesn’t look up when an employee with the same name is called, at Wal-Mart or Albertsons? But there weren’t even two billion people, when he wrote that book. Now, there are six billion, and by 2050, there’ll be eleven billion. That’s a lot of names.
I’ve never been scolded or scorned for lying, only telling the truth. One summer, my family and I encountered a jubilee, near Fort Morgan–crabs, hundreds of them. We quit, after scooping up three hundred, with dip nets. At a gas station, on the way back to our rented cabin, we met a man with a dozen large Spanish mackerel. Dad worked a deal–fifty crabs for all the fish. “It was great!” I chirped, to the stranger, “We got three hundred crabs!” He looked at Dad, but let it go. After we got back in the car, Dad said, “When are you going to learn to keep your mouth shut, Scott?”
Well, I’ve finally learned. I keep secrets from him!
I dreamed I had sex with Grandma–at age forty-two. Would you think better of me if I typed, made love? Sex, alone, is not love. Peter Gabriel sings, “Only love can make love,” and I agree. But we humans are incestuous, by nature–although subconsciously.
This is why the first taboo is incest, not cannibalism. Still, I loved her, most of the time.
Grandma ____, in whose house I live, had a better figure than Grandmother Pyle, who was petite–not my favorite type. Grandma wasn’t as pretty–at least in the typical sense. She didn’t have a perky nose. But she was beautiful, nonetheless–Mom says she resembled Loretta Young. And she was a real grandmother–generous, humble, good-humored, and kind. Grandmother Pyle was aloof, self-righteous, rigid, and condescending. My family thinks otherwise, of course–especially because Grandmother Pyle happened to die on November 1st, All Saints Day!
I finally selected a DVD–a dark comedy called Black Sheep. The promo on the box reads: “There are 40 million sheep in New Zealand…and they’re pissed off!” I’ve seen half, and am quite amused, as expected. People equate darkness with evil, among other things. But God has a dark side, so they have no right to do so. A Hindu passage reads, “Lord…lead me from darkness to light.” In this case, darkness is ignorance, and light knowledge. But a Bible verse reads: “…Moses left the people, and went into the darkness, where God was.” If you want to see the dark side of God, watch a nature documentary. There’s a national park, in Canada, called Wood Buffalo. There, wolves still thrive, along with bison, their prey. Wolves eat the sick and the young. But when none are available, they eat healthy adults. They do this by surrounding a bison, as it crosses a stream. They eat it alive, which is the only way. Each wolf tears strips from the bison, until full. Yes, God has a dark side. And it is not to be loved or hated–only accepted and respected.
Kat von D., a tattooed woman, smiles over me, from my den door. I never would have thought she would, because I was turned off by tattoos on women. But this woman, covered with them, is just too beautiful to shun! In fact, tattoos on women no longer disgust me. Lifting her skirt, Kat reveals Beethoven–front and side view. Unlike most celebrities, today, she is not underweight–but perfectly formed. In fact, she looks like Grandma, in her youth. Maybe that’s why I dreamed of her, maybe not. Kat’s long hair is black, just like her dress, her bra, and her shoes. Her belt is red though, to match the rose in her hair.
As with music, film, and literature, I live through phases with women, which eventually connect into circles. Now I’m in a brown phase, in which all my fantasy-girls have brown (or black) hair, and brown eyes–and blondes, whom I used to favor, seem bland!
Even real women fit this mood–as proven at a dance Friday night. This time, there were women my age, and younger! Still–old, charming, better-dressed men made their moves on my selected brunettes, before I had enough Guinness Draught to do so! I hate being forty-two–older women call me too young, younger women call me too old! Maybe this is the dark side of God, at work–as if to overtake my dark side! And only another Hindu passage sustains me: “You have but the right to perform action; you have no hold on the results thereof. May you not seek the rewards of action, and may you never engage in wrong action.” I have no hold on the results of my actions, thus I am comforted. For resigning oneself to the moment attracts peace.
My last hearing test revealed deafness in my right ear, specifically toward high-pitched sounds. The doctor suggested that next time, if I have the same results, I get a hearing aid. Well that was years ago, and I’ve never returned. Why should I–what good is bad news? And I don’t need a hearing aid yet. This could be something inherent–my sister, Elaine, is now deaf in her left ear, though she’s never been around incessant noise. But in my case I know the cause–my stereo. I enjoy music from every place and time. And whether it’s soft or hard, light or heavy, I always need abundant volume–the only way I can fully experience the music. Thank God for remote control–it enables some adjustment. But I always end up at the loud end.
We all need ritual. Mine is drinking to music, after every meal–coffee or tea. In fact, I accompanied my morning coffee with more of the Interview with the Vampire soundtrack, less than an hour ago. This is the third round of the same CD. I do that with each of them, until it gets boring. Sometimes I play it again, weeks later, sometimes I don’t. As mentioned, I live through phases. I think everyone does, really.
My television’s quite safe, though. It only goes to sixty-three, on the volume scale, though I keep it at sixty-two to avoid damage to the set. Black Sheep still rests in the DVD slot–I haven’t finished it. This movie is easier to hear than most–probably because there are no parties. Just as in real life, I have a difficult time making out what is said in movie crowds. But I refuse to employ subtitles, unless of course a film is in another language. The reason: If I start using subtitles, I’ll never stop. It’s like that with my weight. I am morbidly obese, but realize that, if I got in one of those scooters at Wal-Mart, I’d never get out. With most DVDs, I only understand seventy-five percent of what is said. And that’s when I listen with my eyes.
What if I lose all hearing in my right ear? Well, I’d rather be totally deaf, than even half blind. And the music–it will remain, in my mind. Even when strolling, I never use a Walkman anymore. Melody after melody plays in my head, without one. In fact, most of the time, any day or night, my life has a soundtrack all its own.
Yet now I see sunlit oaks outside my living-room window. And this, perhaps, is how listening with my eyes is best defined.