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Image Credits: Quotes Pictures

Hey guys! I’m back with draft three (or is it four) of chapter 6 which at this point I’ll just refer to simply as “the music chapter” considering how many revisions I have done of it and how many times I’ve already changed the title lol.

Every time I revise it it gets drastically different. The last time I posted about my revisions I worked on creating stronger scenes and making it more of a love story between my ex-boyfriend, Larry and I discovered music with him for the first time post-cochlear implant activation. However, much of the feedback I received from my peers was that I didn’t make it very clear what it was like to hear music before I had cochlear implants and to discuss how it differed. I tried to make that more clear this time around with my references to Good Charlotte and how I knew my hearing was declining and what it was like to regain it and to have it better than ever before.

It’s still a tough challenge for me to write about what it’s like to not hear and what it’s like to hear some things but not everything and to know you can hear things but maybe not quite the way you’re supposed to be hearing it. I think what makes it difficult is it’s such a strong part of me that I don’t always think about it. It’s my identity. So when I do stop and think about it, let alone write about it, I don’t always know how to put it into words. It’s hard to explain to someone who’s always heard what it’s like to not hear when much of your life was spent not being able to hear, if that makes any sense at all?

I realized as I wrote this revision that the love story exists far beyond what I had with my ex, Larry. The real love story I would suggest wasn’t with him at all; but rather with music. I fell in love with music at a really early age, and that love was only strengthened in my middle school years when I discovered Good Charlotte. Like all good love stories, this one wasn’t without heartbreak, which I experienced as I began to lose my ability to hear music. However, love always triumphs, hence my ability to regain my hearing and ability to listen to music.

I’m not sure if any of those 400 or so words I wrote above make any sense at all but regardless, the latest revision is below. This is likely what I’ll be submitting as my final for Seminar I, because after four of five revisions I’m getting a little tired of revising this and also running out of time. :). This is still a work in progress though and I expect there will still be many more revisions to come as I go through Seminar II next semester, so feel free to leave a comment with any suggestions, questions, or any other feedback!

 

Chapter 6: The Memory and Memorization of Music

My middle school years were some of the toughest years in my life. I didn’t have many friends, but what I did have was music. Music was my friend. Good Charlotte was there for me when no one else was. Songs like “The Anthem” told me it was okay to be an outcast, to not be with the “in” crowd and that I should be proud to be different and not like my peers. Not to sound meta or anything, but “The Anthem” literally did become my anthem throughout middle school.  I’d come home from school and play Good Charlotte on my stereo in my room for hours.

I also saw them live every chance that I got. My first time seeing them live was on June 20, 2010. It was Father’s Day, and I felt kind of bad leaving my dad home alone for the holiday while Mom and I made the journey to Philadelphia to surround ourselves with a bunch of hot, sweaty, and drunk 20-somethings who were all pushing and shoving each other to the rhythm of early 00’s alternative rock bands, but I knew my dad would understand. My world always stopped for Good Charlotte.

Mom was disappointed that we wouldn’t be home with dad for Father’s Day, but she understood. In fact, when the car broke down just a few days prior to the show and we didn’t have the money to get it fixed right away, she did what any crazy mom would do and rather than chalking it up as a lost and selling the tickets, she looked up bus schedules and mapped out our plan. It would be a long bus ride with a 10-15 minute walk each way. No big deal, except for one small problem:

It was over 100 degrees.

Father’s Day. No car. An outdoor concert. In 100-degree heat. But for Good Charlotte, it was worth it. For the band who has given me so much in my life, any amount of suffering faced in order to see them perform live was worth it.

The show started with a familiar set of what I assumed were guitar riffs I have memorized and fallen in love with over the years, followed by the opening lines of “It’s a new day, but it all feels old…”

“The Anthem”. I know this, I thought. Singing, or rather screaming, along while jumping up and down and pushing my way closer and closer to the stage was no problem. I knew this song from the back of my hand. I could remember the song length, the lyrics, and the basic structure of the song.

“Move back.” Mom warned, “I don’t want you to get hurt.”

“I’m fine. I can always move away if people start a mosh pit,” I said.

“It’s LOUD. I don’t want you to hurt your ears,” mom said.

I rolled my eyes. I was already about as deaf as one could be and she was worried about me hurting my ears. Really?

“I’m fine,” I contested.

“Do you want to take one of your hearing aids off?” Mom asked.

“No really, I’m fine and if I do that I won’t hear anything. It’s really not that loud to me,” I said. It wasn’t a total lie. I could hear the music and the volume felt comfortable. I could feel the vibrations from the speakers, but it still didn’t seem dangerously loud, just average.

At this point, my hearing while bad, wasn’t yet completely disabling. I was able to comfortably identify and follow along with a majority of Good Charlotte’s songs. The only time I struggled with a little bit was towards the end when Good Charlotte announced that they would be debuting their new song, “Like It’s Her Birthday”. Since this was a brand new song, I haven’t had the opportunity to hear it in the past, let alone memorize the lyrics and song structure. I could see Benji and Paul strumming along with their guitars while Dean banged along on his drums. I could watch Benji play his bass, although I had no way of deciphering its sounds from Benji and Paul’s electric guitars. I could hear Joel singing, but I was only able to make out the first few words of the main chorus, “Acting crazy, like it’s her birthday….” Still, being able to get the gist of the song was better than nothing at this point.  However, by the time I attended my third Good Charlotte concert nearly a year later, I’d see this ability rapidly diminish.

In November of 2010 after much anticipation, Good Charlotte finally released their fifth studio album, Cardiology. Every song on this album was beautifully crafted and one of my all time favorite albums from them. I purchased the album from Best Buy the day it was released and spent the next several weeks listening to it on repeat, studying every single music note (or what I believed them to be) and memorizing all of the lyrics. When they announced that they would be going on tour in March I couldn’t buy the tickets fast enough.

On March 9, 2011, I attended what was the most depressing concert of my life: Good Charlotte’s Cardiology Tour at the Theater of Living Arts (TLA) in Philadelphia. This concert was depressing not because of the show itself (it looked like a great show!) but because of one major problem: I could barely hear or understand anything that was being said and any song that was being performed.

I did okay with some of the newer songs. The good part about their new album that they were promoting, Cardiology is that the songs were so unique and distinct from any of their other songs that it was easy to study the structure of the songs and to distinguish one from another. “Silver Screen Romance” was milder and laid back than many of their other works and had an almost old-fashioned kind of sound that none of their other songs did. I could pick that song out easily. “Introduction to Cardiology” was another easy song to pick out simply because it was first. It only made sense that they would perform it first. Also, the song was one of the only instrumental songs that Good Charlotte had. However, it was hard to tell when the song ended and moved into another song, “The Anthem”. I could not hear the words that Benji and Joel were singing. I only knew the song was different a few minutes in when I noticed that the tone seemed to have changed not just with the song, but the concert atmosphere in general. Everyone was rather calm when Introduction to Cardiology was playing. No one was really jumping up or down or singing along to anything. Now suddenly, the girls were going crazy jumping up and down while the men were forming their own mosh pits. Everyone was singing along to something, but what exactly were they singing along to? I couldn’t tell, and I was afraid to ask. I should know this, I thought to myself. Better luck with the next songs I thought as I hoped for the best.

Song after song after song kept playing, and I wasn’t getting any better. In fact, if anything I was getting worse. What were they performing? Was this “Bloody Valentine”? No, I think they did that already. “Lifestyles of the Rich an Famous”? No, it couldn’t be; that’s their biggest hit and the one they always save for the encore. Would I get any of these songs right? Am I really this deaf?

The music stopped and Benji and Joel talked to the audience. They were laughing. Why were they laughing? What was even going on? I looked at my mom and she was laughing and smiling, too. “I love watching them talk. They always make fun of each other,” she said. Not only was this my third Good Charlotte concert, it was her third one, too. She had become my concert buddy and was beginning to enjoy the Good Charlotte concerts every bit as much as I did, if not more so. Or at least as much as I did before this night… I wanted to cry. I had no idea what was being said, what was being performed, and I didn’t even know why I was there. Would I ever be able to enjoy a Good Charlotte concert ever again? I didn’t want to let her know how bad of a time I was having or how I couldn’t actually hear anything. I felt ashamed and embarrassed, but above all else, I felt defeated. Instead I just said, “Yeah, me too. I love them, they’re hilarious.” I figured pretending I could hear them and giving a vague response was my best bet.

March 9, 2011 was the first night I realized that maybe I was deafer than I ever imagined. It was the first time that I was ever a little bit afraid of my deafness. Up until that night, I thought I was doing an excellent job of existing in the hearing world and “getting by” despite my deafness. But music has always been such a huge part of my life. If I was going to lose my ability to hear music, what did I even have left in my life?

I couldn’t accept the fact that music may only be a past memory for me. Even though I was struggling to hear it, I never gave up. I saw many concerts in 2010 – 2014 including Simple Plan, Yellowcard, The Ataris, Avril Lavigne, Katy Perry, Maroon 5, Pat Benatar, and Rick Springfield. Many of these musicians sounded very different from one another, but each concert had one thing in common:

I couldn’t hear them.

I tried to focus more on the experience I was having at each concert rather than on the fact that I couldn’t hear the music at all. Sometimes the experience was great, and other times not so great. Simple Plan’s concert was one of the worst concerts I ever been to in my life, despite them being one of my all-time favorite bands. I couldn’t hear any of the songs and throughout the night.

Avril Lavigne was a concert even more depressing than the March 9, 2011 Good Charlotte concert I attended. At least with Good Charlotte I could remember what it was like to attend their concerts and to be able to hear them. I waited over 10 years to see her perform live and she has always been one of my all time favorite musicians. However, I couldn’t hear a word she said. I couldn’t understand what any of the songs she sang were. I didn’t know if she was good live, not good, or even in between.

I was bored. Concerts become less fun when you have no idea what is going on. Not only was I bored, I was downright depressed. One of the most anticipated concerts in my entire life and I couldn’t even hear anything.

Unfortunately, it only got worse from then on out. Not only was I losing my ability to hear live music and to enjoy going to concerts, something that has become a favorite pastime of mine, but I was losing the ability to hear music on the radio, too. Catching a song mid-way through on the radio and I’d have absolutely no idea who sung it or what the song was called, even if it was a song I’ve heard millions of times before. The only way I knew what it was is if I knew the name and artist ahead of time, but even that was becoming more and more difficult. I couldn’t hear or understand what the radio DJ’s were saying; the only way for me to know would be to have someone tell me such as my mom or dad if they were in the car with me at the time, or to look it up on their website to see what was “Now Playing” and hope it was updated (it usually wasn’t).

Listening to my own personal music collection via CDs or my iPod was a bit easier for me, because then I could select the songs on my own I wanted to listen to. I knew exactly what the song was called and who it was by. I could use my memory of how I thought the song was supposed to sound, the lyrics and the basic song structure to figure out what the song was and to almost enjoy it. It was at times an exhausting process. Music was becoming less of an enjoyable activity to me and more of a chore. Because it took so much work for me to “study” the music and to be able to listen to it based off my memory, I found myself listening to it less and less. I used to love finding new music and discovering local, unsigned bands, but that hobby became a thing of the past as my hearing continued to decline. Hearing music was only working for songs I had a past memory of hearing, not something I’d need to discover for the very first time.

My ability to hold on to my memories of music and the way I thought it was supposed to sound would come in handy a few years later after I received my first cochlear implant.

“Don’t be too discouraged if music doesn’t sound like how you remember it at first. Remember, for some people they are never able to hear music at all even with the cochlear implant,” I remembered Wayne’s words, but I chose not to accept them. Music has always been such a huge part of who I am, and I refused to accept the idea that I may not ever be able to enjoy it again. I wanted to not only hear it the way I remembered it, but I wanted to hear it the way it was supposed to sound, too. I didn’t want music to consist only of memories; I wanted music to be exactly what it was – music.

“Can you tell what this?” Dad asked as he turned on the car radio.

“Jesse’s Girl?” I asked. We had the song burned on one of our car CDs and my dad knew it was my favorite, so we played it often.

My mom shot my dad a concerned look before whispering something. I’ll never know what was said, but if I had to take a guess it was probably something along the lines of “Why can’t she hear it?”

“No – it’s the Grinch,” my dad corrected.

“What?” I asked.

“The Grinch,” my dad repeated.

“I can’t really hear you. I mean I can, but I can’t understand what you’re saying – everything still sounds like a baby crying,” I said.

“The GRINCH. GUR-INCHHH,” my mom said. In between the sounds of a baby crying, her voice squeaked through. She still sounded like she was sucking on helium, but I could read her lips well enough to tell she was saying “the Grinch”.

“Oh, the Grinch!” I said, “yeah, I didn’t get that at all.”

“It will probably take time. You’ll get it eventually,” my dad said.

“Yeah. Wayne and everyone in the Facebook groups said that music is the hardest thing to learn,” I said. I left out the second half of the sentence, some of them never learn to hear music at all or at least not the way it was before being implanted.

“You can try some more when we get home. Remember, we have the new Mandisa CDs I got from G triple C,” my mom reminded me.

“Yeah, I’ll try those,” I said.

Once I got home I was so excited to make noise and to hear literally anything I could. Gizmo, my Maine Coon cat meowing. The sound of running water. The clicking noise that light switches apparently make. Even the sounds of ice cubes cackling in a cup of soda amused me. But the thing I wanted to hear most of all was music, so I wasted little time popping a CD in the stereo and pressing play.

I started with Mandisa as my mom suggested. It was a brand-new CD that I’ve had for a month but have yet to open since I couldn’t hear anything before my activation. I have been eager to open it as a sort of “gift” for my new bionic ear. I wasn’t that familiar with Mandisa’s music other than the occasional song here or there that played on K-Love, so I was excited to discover her music for the first time with my new bionic ear.

However, when I pressed play all that I could hear was the sound of a baby crying blocking the sounds of Mandisa’s voice. Since I had little to no previous experience with listening to Mandisa, my brain was unable to process the sounds of her voice and the instruments in the background. Everything was completely new and overwhelming. Still, I didn’t want to give up just yet. I hit “next” and choose another song. Same results. I kept on trying and trying and trying until more than an hour passed by and I had still made no progress.

“It still sounds so weird. All I can hear is the sound of a baby crying,” I said.

“Why don’t you try something else that you’re more familiar with?” my dad suggested.

I look around a bit before spotting the Kelly Clarkson “Thankful” CD sitting by the stereo. Kelly Clarkson was never someone I’d say was my favorite musician, but I did always like and appreciate her music. I looked at the back of the CD case to refresh my memory on what songs were on that album.

“’Miss Independent’. ‘Low’. ‘A Moment Like This’. Hmm. Okay I think I know these pretty well,” I said to myself before swapping CDs and pressing play.

I couldn’t understand it all at first, but by my third time through I could pick out words like “Miss independent” or “What is this feeling taking over” from her songs. The music was slowly beginning to filter through the noise and sound like actual music. It wasn’t yet pretty, but it was a glimpse of what music is supposed to sound like – actual music.

The more I listen to it, the more familiar it becomes. It’s like a new way of studying and learning to hear music. I thought to myself. But this is going to take a lot of work.

I was exhausted. The one thing nobody tells you about hearing or being activated with a cochlear implant is how truly exhausting it can all be. Once activated, you need to really think hard about what you’re hearing and give your brain a lot of time to process the sounds and figure out what it is. After listening to music for several hours, I needed a break.

I guess that’s a little bit of progress. I thought. I’ll try again tomorrow.

For the rest of the week I focused almost all my attention on learning how to hear music the way it was supposed to sound. I learned quickly that the more familiar a band or song was, the better the chances I had of hearing it properly. Good Charlotte was my band of choice, for obvious reasons. There was no band I knew better than Good Charlotte. Still, for the first few days post-activation I struggled. However, I was determined to not become another statistic; I didn’t want to turn into a cochlear implant recipient that lost their ability to enjoy music post-activation. I was determined to defy the odds and to not only hear music, but for it to be completely and mesmerizingly beautiful; like I’ve never heard it before.

By the third day post-activation, after spending countless hours listening to Good Charlotte on repeat, it finally began to click. I was working from home for an advertising agency, WebiMax, and listening to my iPod as I worked on my assigned tasks. I had Good Charlotte’s complete discography playing on repeat. The song that was playing at that moment was Good Charlotte’s “Predictable”. Suddenly, I recognized an entirely new sound. It wasn’t the sound of a baby crying or someone sucking on helium or any other “side effect” kind of sound. It was beautiful.

Duhn duhn. Duhn duhn. Duhn duhn.

What was that?

I backed up and hit play again.

Duhn duhn. Duhn duhn. Duhn duhn.

Is that a drum? No, it couldn’t be. It wasn’t quite loud or hard enough to be a drum.

Guitar? No, I was fairly sure I was already hearing the guitar, and this was something different.

What other options were left?

I decided to take to Google and look up facts about Good Charlotte’s “Predictable” to see if I could find anything that stated what instruments were used.

BAM! Found it.

BASS.

It was a bass.

The one instrument I have always known of and knew Good Charlotte could play, but could never actually hear. Up until that moment I thought that the bass and the regular guitars were synonymous. For the first time ever, I was hearing the bass the way it was supposed to sound and it was so beautiful. I’ve always enjoyed listening to “Predictable”, but I’d never quite referred to it as being one of my all-time favorite Good Charlotte songs. That is, not until that moment. At this particular moment, I knew I was making extreme progress. I was so happy and excited I could cry.

I spent the rest of the afternoon playing “Predictable” on repeat. I was in complete awe by the sound of the bass and I was excited to see what else I could hear.

By the end of the day I could sing along to most of the words in “Predictable”.

The best part? I was singing along because I could hear and follow the song, not simply because I had it memorized.

On day four of post-cochlear implant activation, I had plans to see Larry for what would be our first date in over a month and I couldn’t have been more excited.

Larry picked me up at around 6pm in his trusty old, beat up green truck. I was never a big fan of the truck, but for the first time in my life I was thrilled by the sight of that truck because I knew what it meant: I was finally going somewhere. Alone. With Larry. At last.

“I’m here.” read the latest text on my Android phone, but I already knew and had the door wide open before the message even came through. I mapped out his route and knew exactly when to expect him at my condo and watched him pull up. I was excited to see him, but I really couldn’t wait to finally hear him.

He looked so handsome. For once, he actually made an effort and traded in his faded, worn out t-shirts and dirty jeans for a nice collared shirt and a pair of jeans that at least didn’t have any dirt on them (so what if they were a little faded?). The smell of his British Sterling cologne was intoxicating.

“Your voice is beautiful,” I said. I wasn’t sure if I meant it or if I was just saying it because of how in love I was and how happy I was to finally be able to hear him speak and to have a conversation that existed outside of writing down notes or texting each other. It’s been a rough month as far as communication went.

“Thank you,” Larry said, as we both laughed together.

“This is weird. I know. But I can hear now.” I said.

“What do I sound like?” he asked.

“Pretty much the same.” I said, “But your voice is a little deeper.”

“I got a Spotify playlist,” Larry said. “Do you want to hook it up?”

“Sure,” I said. “What do you got on here?”

“Take a look.” he said as he handed me his phone and pulled out of the parking lot.

I scrolled down the list searching frantically for a familiar song. Celtic music. Scottish music. What in the world? Only my boyfriend would have music this weird on Spotify…I thought.

Finally, I found something I recognized: “As Long As You Love Me” by the Backstreet Boys. Music still sounded terrible to me, but better than it did on day one at least. I just wanted to impress Larry with all the things I could suddenly hear, even if I couldn’t understand them.

Larry joined me and we sang together, “Who you are…where you’re from…don’t care what you did…as long as you love me…” and it felt like he was singing directly to me, serenading me with his love. Larry’s always sung to me, but now that I could hear him and almost understand him, his voice sounded ten times sweeter.

When we arrived in Smithville I was immediately overwhelmed by all the noise and it looked like Santa came through town and painted everything with Christmas cheer. It looked like a cute little Christmas village with lights everywhere I looked, a train going by every 10 minutes, and Christmas music constantly playing.

“Look at the lights!” I said.

“It’s a Christmas lights show,” Larry explained after reading the sign. “Want to watch?”

“Sure!” I said.

We watched as the Christmas trees lite up and flashed new colors every few seconds. Some were purple, others were blue or orange.

“Can you hear that?” Larry asked.

“Christmas music?” I guessed. It was an obvious answer; we were in Christmas town, after all.

“Yes.” he said.

“I can’t tell what song it is.” I admitted, “But I know it’s Christmas music.

“It’s Rudolph.” He said as he began to hum the tune.

I nodded along, wondering if there were any songs I’d “get” that night. I haven’t really been able to understand any of the songs on the radio since we’ve arrived, but I was enjoying the sensation of hearing sounds and being able to at least tell there was music playing.

“Do you want to go in the shops?” I asked. The lights were cool, but I was ready to explore everything else.

“Ok. That one looks cool,” he said as he pointed to a native American shop. Larry has always been interested in Indians, just like me.

We entered the shop and looked around before heading to the back of the shop and Larry discovered an old-fashioned rack of CDs with a little machine that allowed you to play samples of the music. He read from the choices and pushed one of the buttons. “Indian music,” he said.  “Can you hear it?”

“I can.” I said. There weren’t any words, so it was easier to follow along.

“What do you hear?” he asked.

“Drums?” I guessed.

“Yes. What else?” he asked.

“Uhm. I want to say guitar?” I guessed.

“Mmhmm.” He said.

“I know there’s other stuff, too, but I am not sure what else it is.” I admitted. “I want to hear a flute.” I say.

“I don’t think we’re going to find that in Indian music.” he admitted, almost apologetically.

“It’s okay.” I said as I push another button.

Larry and I pushed every single button until we run out of songs. “The people in here must hate us.” I said, “Oh well I’m having fun.”

“That’s all that matters then.” Larry said.  “Love you.”

“Love you too.” I said. “Let’s go somewhere else.”

We made our way from shop to shop. Most of the shops were filled with homemade goods that we had no intention of ever buying, but it was fun to look at them all anyway.

“Check this out.” Larry said as he picked up a bell. “Can you hear it?”

I listened carefully, it’s a sound I’ve always wanted to hear but never could. “I can. Oh my god. I can.” I said. “Let me see it.”

I picked up the bell and held it to my ear, ringing it over and over again. Tears began to fill in my eyes. I can’t believe that I was really able to hear a bell. I may not have been able to hear everything clearly yet, but this was huge. I’ve never been able to hear high frequency sounds before and now I was clearly hearing one of the highest forms of high frequency sounds.

“There’s some more over here.” Larry said.

I walked over to the table where Larry was and carefully pick up each and every bell and rang it to my ear. They all sounded the same, but I had to ring them all just to be sure. I picked them up and placed them down carefully, being cautious not to break any of the glass or porcelain materials. The shop owner glared at me. Surely, she didn’t understand or appreciate this little routine.

“Let’s go somewhere I else,” I whispered to Larry. “I don’t think she likes us doing this.” I said as I glanced up at the shop owner.

“Great idea.” he said.

Our next stop was a little punk rock shop known simply as “Underground”. Underground didn’t look like any of the other shops we’ve been too. The outside of the building was green like all the other shops, but the bright red doors made it stand out. There were no handmade goods or bells or frilly things. Everything almost looked like it was dead and there was hundreds of thousands of old records everywhere you looked and walls adorned with famous concert posters from heavy metal bands.

“I feel like I’m home!” I yelled over the heavy metal music blaring through the speakers.

“What? I CANNOT HEAR YOU!” Larry yelled back. He looked horrified.

“I LOVE THIS PLACE. IT REMINDS ME OF THAT RECORD STORE IN OCEAN CITY!” I said. I was pretty sure this was what heaven looked like, or at the very least, sounded like.

“I can’t do this – I’ll wait for you outside,” Larry said. I was afraid I may have broken my country boyfriend, but I was in no hurry to leave. I was in my element, whether he chose to be a part of that or not. I nodded back and said, “I’ll just be a few minutes.”

I browsed through the stacks of records, but I didn’t recognize any of the names. This really is underground, I thought to myself. I reminiscenced on my middle school days back when I’d spend hours searching for local punk rock bands that no one has ever heard of, dedicating my life to being their little groupie, whether they wanted it or not (most of them didn’t). I focused on the songs blaring from the radio. I could feel all of the vibrations and could understand why Larry had to leave…it was LOUD! I had no idea what they were shouting through those speakers, but I didn’t mind. I was in pure bliss simply by the fact that I knew there was music playing, a feeling I hadn’t experienced in several years. Besides, wasn’t the point of heavy metal music to shout things in a mic and pair it with heavy drumming and guitars so no one knew what you were saying any way?

I spent a few more minutes soaking in the entire experience and all of the sounds before spotting and purchasing an Edgar Allan Poe shirt. It was a nod to my Bachelor’s degree in English, but also a little memento to help me to forever remember this moment.

“We better get going,” I said to Larry when I reunited with him outside of the shop. “It’s getting late and we still need to stop for dinner.”

“Okay, where to?” he asked.

“Up to you,” I said.

“How about Applebees?” he suggested. I never liked Applebees in the past because it was always too loud for me, but with my new bionic ears, I’m more than willing to give them another chance tonight.

“Sounds good.” I said as we walked back to his trusty green truck.

It was a long way from Galloway to Deptford. I was sure there must have been another Applebees in a closer town to us, but Deptford was all that either of us knew, and we didn’t mind spending some extra time together. It was our first night out in over a month, and with Larry on the road all the time as a truck driver, we knew that opportunities like tonight would be rare and far between in the months to come.

“I have something for you to listen to,” Larry said.

“Hm. What’s that?” I asked.

“Listen.” he said as he pushed play on a Spotify playlist on his phone.

I listened closely for a few seconds before realizing there were no words to the song.

“Instrumental?” I asked.

“Yes.” Larry admitted.

“Drums?” I questioned. I was confident that whatever I was hearing must be drums.

“What? No.” he said.

“I could swear I heard drums.” I said. I knew I was learning sounds, especially for instruments, but I didn’t trust Larry’s words at that moment. A drum was a drum was a drum. This was not a high frequency sound. I knew what a drum was. Or did I?

“Nope. It’s 100% bagpipes.” He said.

“Oh wow. That’s different.” I said. I was impressed that he remembered my love for bagpipes. I WAS Scottish and Irish after all. Bagpipes were what we did.

“Yeah, thought you’d appreciate it. I know you said you wanted them at your wedding when we get married.” He said.

“Yes, I do. I always thought they were cool.” I admitted, “they sound beautiful, but I could swear I heard drums. It’s weird.”

When we left Applebees and finally arrived back home, it was after 10. Larry parked the car in the back lot, away from all the houses and other cars so as to not disturb my elderly neighbors who may have been trying to sleep. “Let’s not go inside,” I said.

“Why? Mom asleep?” he asked.

“No…” I admitted. “I just want to talk.”

“About what?” he asked.

“I dunno. Can you sing to me?” I asked.

Larry knew exactly what I was asking for. I was asking for more noise. More sound. More of him and his voice and to experience him in a way that was still foreign to me. I wanted to learn what music REALLY sounded like. I wanted to learn his voice. I wanted this night with just the two of us to last forever.

He put his Spotify playlist on and we listened to each and every song. He moved our seats back so we could cuddle. I rested my head against his chest and felt his heartbeat as he sang along to the radio, holding me as tight as he could. He only stopped singing every few minutes to kiss me above my eyes.

When the last song played, it was Brad Paisely’s “She’s Everything” and I could swear he was singing each and every line from the bottom of his heart directly to me.

“Love you, Angel,” Larry whispered in my ear. A soft, delicate whisper, and perhaps one of the only whispers I’ve ever actually heard in my life.

We fell asleep that night in his trusty, beat up green truck under a full night of stars to the sounds of Braid Paisley. Our own version of a Christmas song.

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