Somewhere in Oklahoma, 2010

Tinnitus occurs for many reasons, most of them vague. Exposure to loud noise or stress. A kink in the nerves. It’s a purely internal phenomenon, and it’s important to distinguish between the mental and the material. It could be a matter of life and death. Or worse. Like the story about the man whose tinnitus became so loud, he punctured his eardrums with an ice pick, preferring deafness to the incessant ringing. After the job was done, he held the bloodied pick before a mirror and began to scream. Not from the pain. No, he screamed because the ringing continued. Tinnitus is just another trick of the brain, a glitch that compensates for a lost frequency by reproducing it in the mind.

So I turn up the radio to drown the hum in my ears. This is the only medicine that works: the gray noise of modern living, the wash of air-conditioners, static, and highway traffic. Strange how the noise in my head can only be soothed by more noise. Maybe this makes sense in a world of ever-increasing volume, all of us chatterers and screamers seeking to mute the unpleasant sounds in our heads, some hollow ringing of the soul.

Now sight is merging with sound: everyone is snapping pictures or hunched over tiny screens, their faces bathed in pale blue light as if talking with ghosts. My brains scrape against a story about a god who could no longer tolerate the constant babble of humans that swarmed the earth, until one night, unable to sleep, this god unleashed a terrible flood. This might be an ancient myth. Or maybe I made it up.

This is the eleventh episode of Interstate Scenes, a fictional collection of homeless paragraphs, remixed and upcycled bits from the past, and bloopers from the stories I’m writing.

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4 months ago

For a long time I thought that somewhere in the literal wilderness that is my southern boundary someone was inexplicably and secretly running a loud generator, an electrical sub-station, something that required a lot of power and hummed to itself. It took a year for the noise to get louder to realise it was everywhere my right ear pointed. The matter of life and death was resolved in my favour and so the doctor’s dismissal by an MRI, but I still have to live with it. I mentioned once before (Did I? My memory and my imaginings share space), I have convinced myself of the sound’s meditative, insomnia-calming properties, which has been good for me, helped by its frequency… but I still run a low-grade anxiety about its unknown origin. The cliche of “infernal machines” comes to mind, as if my autistic, hypersensitivity, my hyperacusis, has tuned in to some chthonic radio station. My occasional return to the city drowns it and quiets it on return for a few days. It certainly inspires divergent thoughts… I still haven’t seen “Memoria” though.

(I’ve talked a lot… I do that, I’m sorry. I am always enthused, inspired, delighted by your writing. I wish you (a partly-selfish) well in your writing, per your other blog post).

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