the healing muse

Volume 13, 2013

Technical Difficulties

Raven Heroux

      “SOUP MOM YEAH OKAY!” I scream in the crowded cafeteria as I enjoy a hamburger. My friends take no notice of this.
      “Fuck shit ass balls!” whisper-shouts the douchebag sitting behind me as his friends chuckle at his witty South Park reference that’s not actually witty. It’s like he missed the whole point of the episode.

      It’s not hard to be a decent human being, but some people struggle with this. Ever see someone with a scarred face or a broken arm? How old are they? Does it matter? They have a physical characteristic that allows you to sympathize with them, allows you to take a seat next to them, allows you to say, “So what’s your story?” But what do you say to the young woman who says, “Oya go musashi bata la” to herself, over and over, and then repeatedly asks, “Wait, pardon me. What did you say? Huh?”
      Nothing. You don’t say anything to her. You’re supposed to step away, change seats, and avert your eyes. Didn’t your mother teach you not to talk to strangers? Deteriorating bodies get all the pity. What you don’t know is that a primary doctor takes care of your broken bones, but a neurobiologist takes care of your brain—we can all agree which sounds more badass.
      Go back to the girl speaking gibberish. She seems a bit off her rocker, yeah? You probably think that she thinks she’s a witch. You probably wonder why she stamps her feet again and again to make them feel right and balanced. You probably giggle when she shouts, “WHAT? What did you say?!” to someone right beside her. You probably don’t realize that she’s a twenty-one-year-old with a malfunctioning brain. Life gets interesting with a brain like mine.
      At seven I was diagnosed with OCD. At fifteen I was diagnosed with a sudden onset of Tourette’s syndrome. At twenty-one I’m losing my hearing, a product of my brain, not my ears. What’ll happen when I’m twenty-five? Thirty-nine? Seventy-three? Will my brain be mush by then? Will it leak out of my ears and ruin my outfit? Will I even have a brain?
      It’s not as dramatic as I’m making it out to be. I’m quite easy to get along with if you overlook some of the glaringly strange quirks. We’ll get along just peachy as long as you don’t mind if I keep the television volume on an odd number, hop across the crosswalk to avoid the white paint, and spit out food when the texture is wrong. Would you care if I shouted, “Have you—have you—have you got a letter?” in a British accent during a movie? Would you be bothered if I flailed my arms, perhaps accidentally slapping you in the jaw? Twice? Would you mind if I spoke gibberish with a Japanese accent, even at Chinese restaurants? Would you be offended? Embarrassed? Amused? I’m sure you don’t mind repeating . . . because I can’t . . . words . . . what . . . say? I’m sure you enjoy telling me a top-notch joke three times, exasperation in your voice, just so I can laugh ten minutes after everyone else when the words finally click.
      We’d be great friends.
      Sorry, didn’t catch that.
      We’d be great friends.
      Thanks for the repeat.
      What does it take to inform the masses that disabilities aren’t always visual? That sometimes they hide in your brain and affect you in ways you can’t control? What will it take to show people that disabilities aren’t always crippling and can sometimes be hilarious? What can I do to show people I’m just a normal college student with a not-so-normal brain and an otherwise fairly normal life? Will . . . treat me . . . person or . . . disability?
      “If you hate even numbers so much, are you mad you’re the second child?”
      “Hey, I haven’t seen you tic in a while. You should be more consistent.”
      “I already told you twice!”
      I’m not your circus monkey. Two is an honorary odd number, I can’t control when, where, and how I tic, and yes, well, maybe I could understand you if you enunciated, dear. None of this makes sense, and I’m well aware of that. If you’re not laughing with me at my tics, then you lack both sympathy and humor, and I pity you.
      Most of the time I don’t let my broken brain define me. I use it to my advantage. Aside from my winning personality, you get to enjoy all the oddities I exhibit on a daily basis. When I start to tic gibberish in different accents, answer me in gibberish or English—now we both look bilingual and intelligent! Jump over the cracks in the road with me—step on a crack and turn into a ball of anxiety, as the saying goes—and forget what people think of you; it’s refreshing. Look at me when you speak so I can read your lips and—do you need chapstick? I have some in my purse somewhere . . . sorry, can you say that again? I was looking down.
      So really, if I’m willing to put up with your hyena laugh, the way you talk with food in your mouth, and how, like, you always, um, use verbal pauses, uh, that make you, like, sound unintelligent, then you should be able to put up with my quirks too.

      But then again, some people have a natural flair for being a decent human being. Back in the cafeteria, I shout, “My mom is a Bob!” agitated by the boys sitting behind me, clearly assuming I’m deafer than I am.
      “MY KITTY IS A PUPPY!” my unashamed and unabashed roommate screams, doing a convincing impression of one of my past tics. She slams her hands on the table repeatedly, kicking her knees up to amplify the ruckus. She looks past me and at the boys. “What are you looking at? Mind your own business!”

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