MWBB – week 24
This one’s pretty dark, kiddos. Most of it’s not true.
It’s back again, the buzzing noise that’s not quite subliminal. No one else says they can hear it, but I know they can. I’ve seen the way they look at me. The way there’s always something more important going on somewhere else, or a text from a sick friend, or a big project at work. They hear me buzzing, and it’s unpleasant. I don’t blame them for leaving. I’d leave if I could, but the buzz isn’t in my ears, and it’s not an insect, winging its way around my head like my own personal Sputnik. I’m the buzz.
I first noticed it in fourth grade. I was playing by myself at recess, of course, when Ronnie came up to me. We’d been neighbors – friends, I’d thought – once upon a time, but those days were faded, like the bruises he’d left on my shoulders during one too many games of Two For Flinching. We didn’t talk anymore, except when our parents forced us together at a block party or birthday, and even then, his smiles were false and mine were absent. His smile that day wasn’t false, but it wasn’t for me. It was for the group gathered around him, sycophants all, barely suppressing giggles. “Want some lemonade?” he asked. “My mom told me to share with you today.”
The mind is a powerful machine. It can create its own reality when the one it experiences through your eyes and ears is too much to take. It can make urine taste like lemonade. It can make you buzz.
The buzz isn’t there all the time, at least not that I notice. For years at a time it grows quiescent, hibernating, waiting for the dark places in my mind to tell it that spring has arrived. But it’s merely dormant, not dead.
I tried to measure it once, late at night in the science lab. It was particularly strong that year, feeding on the shards of my self-esteem, crushed by a professor whose cynicism was more vital than my future. I sang to myself in the dark, trying to make the buzz play the part of a baritone in the chorus of voices in my mind, but it never worked. I couldn’t sing well enough, and it never stopped. The meters jumped, I thought, but the signal wasn’t really strong enough to overcome the noise in the machine, and eventually I went home to my cage.
These days it waits for special occasions. Mostly. When I’m making a presentation at work. When I’m trying to make love. When my kids ask me for another glass of water. They hear it, often before I do, and they wince. My counselor said they wince because they’ve been hit too often, and I wish I could find out who did that, who would hurt such beautiful children. The police officers hear the buzz too, but they cover it up by slamming me around the interrogation room.
The clock on the wall buzzes too, but at just different enough of a frequency that beats echo throughout the room, the syncopation punctuated every sixty seconds by the click of the minute hand. The nurse at my side winces as he prepares the IV, the repulsion on his face clear as he puts on a second pair of gloves, further insulating his flesh from the buzz.
They were all there, in the audience, when they wheeled me out on stage. The house lights were bright, limning the crowd in halos. Ronnie sat with his arm around my ex-wife, his smile warm and comforting while she cried silently, her reddened eyes never leaving me. My children were there too, their tiny forms sheathed in smoke. They spoke only to each other – even their mother ignored them – but I didn’t.
“Daddy’s here. It’s going to be okay, little ones. I promise. Daddy promises.”
The buzzing grew louder, more distinct, rising in pitch until the clock struck midnight. They thought I would cry out then, I know. I did too.
And then it was over. At least they didn’t ask me to drink urine.