quiet

I can’t stand the noise I can’t stand this FUCKING NOISE

it’s endless. I don’t think I noticed it so much when I was working, but that was some time ago now and the noise that never ends has been getting bigger and louder and ever more intrusive ever since, to the point where I feel like the noise lives here in my flat and I’m just the noise’s unwelcome guest – past the point of grudging civilities.

It’s a tiny ground floor flat with no yard or garden to act as a buffer, and the pavement runs all the way round, right beneath the windows. People stand right outside them, inches away from where I’m sitting, here in the dark, gritting my crumbling teeth, and shout and swear at each other at all hours of the day and night. There’s a bus stop directly over the road and the bus pulls up rattling and gasping every fifteen minutes, day and night, brakes squealing, doors hissing as they open to disgorge another mob of howling thugs, heading for the pub next door, where they’ll spend the night standing outside smoking and roaring while the music from another shit band playing dreadful covers of songs that were shit the first time around when they at least had originality and musicians who could hit the right note once in a while on their side rattles my windows and drowns out anything I might be trying to watch or listen to. When the pub kicks out in the early morning, the drunks bang on my windows, shove half eaten kebabs through my rattling letterbox and noisily kick each other’s heads in until tasered to sleep.

That’s when the alcoholic man baby who lives upstairs staggers home, dragging some random, heavy, drunk emotionally damaged local woman with him to fuck artlessly a couple of feet above my head, after which he picks his guitar up and serenades her with his own dismal, yawping compositions, all clumsily fingered minor chords and Poundshop Art Garfunkel whining, not befitting a man of his age or status in life. He’s my fucking neighbour – who does he think he is?

After this they’ll slump to the floor, so close to my head we might as well be sharing a bunk bed and snore heartily til the fat girl next door who lives in her dressing gown and leaves mounds of shitty nappies and soiled wet wipes strewn outside my back step wakes up and starts screaming at her child to an accompaniment of drill music. Aptly named,

Around this time, the traffic starts in earnest on the main road out front, so loud that in the last year or two I’ve never caught more than the occasional line of dialogue in any movie I’ve tried to watch in my own front room – everything disjointed, half senseless.

In addition to all this, just beyond the bus stop is a church with a clock which chimes every gruelling quarter hour so I can calculate to within fifteen minutes how long I’ve been laid, sleepless and seething in the crawling darkness…

And then, recently, I started to think – the  noise is the worst thing in a pretty awful life. When I get the rare urge to try to break free of all this shit, to lift my head above all this misery and squalor – it’s the noise, the fucking constant noise, that drags me back down again. I tried meditating – thinking that a spiritual life might provide some kind of meaning I could cling to, but I was tripped every time on that first baby step, by the noise, crashing in, everywhere. I can’t string a thought together without being snapped out of even the most shallow reverie by a blaring horn, a scream of “You FUCKING CUNT”, someone’s head walloping against the window, the man upstairs dropping his guitar or chortling with insufferable self-satisfaction at his imagined loveliness. If I could just find some PEACE – some space to think, to get myself together – then maybe I could start putting things back together again.

And I thought about it for a while. I couldn’t afford to move. I could’t burn down the pub or the church, kill my neighbours  or close  the road – but maybe I could go deaf?

The idea seemed grotesque at first. Not the end result – but the fact that I was going to have to go through some grisly and horribly painful process to get there, I did a bit of research, and it looked as though the two quickest routes were either some kind of brain damage or direct trauma to my inner ear. I discounted the brain damage option. I was looking for a way – however drastic – to make my life vaguely liveable, not end it, and trying to mash my auditory cortex while leaving the rest of my brain intact seemed like a bit of a gamble. So that left the prospect of causing some kind of catastrophic damage to my ears.

It may not sound like it, but I’m a fairly sensible, cautious person – or I used to be until the noise started driving me mad. I thought about it. I was going to have to think about some kind of pain relief, and pay some attention to sterile procedure. I ordered a couple of needles from Amazon, the long ones used for intramuscular injections, and a bottle of isopropyl alcohol, neoprene gloves and a big bag of cotton wool and assembled a selection of painkillers – codeine, dihydrocodeine and a strip of Tramadol I still had lying around from a recent back injury. Then I spent a week or so letting the noise drive me madder and madder until one night, when the band at the pub were playing a particularly excruciating cover of Reef’s Place Your Hands, the man upstairs was yodelling, the girl next door was shouting along with Stormzy over the desolate wailing of her daughter, and the drunks outside were arguing about about who was the biggest cunt. I’d had a few drinks and it had been a long couple of days with no sleep and I just wanted some peace.

I laid on the sofa where I sleep, with a clean towel under my head, swallowed a fistful of painkillers, smoked a cigarette then peeled open the gloves and applied a film of icy alcohol to my inner ears, as deep as I could get it with a cotton bud. This was it. I’d never hear music or birdsong again, but I’d never hear the oppressive idiocy of my fellow man or the idiot roaring of the traffic either. I uncapped two needles and slowly inserted one into each ear simultaneously – I figured that the pain might be so shocking I’d not be able to repeat the action if I did one at a time – to the point where I could feel the slightest hint of pressure, an ominous vibration across my eardrums. I gritted my teeth. I knew I was going to have to plunge both needles through my timpaniums and ROTATE them briskly to ensure maximum, terminal damage.

I pushed. The pain was incandescent, blinding me with a phosphorous white glare. I felt my whole body buck and arch but I persisted and I twisted, and the last thing I heard was an awful tearing and grating a scream that ripped away to nothing…

I didn’t pass out. The merciful embrace of unconsciousness, come to bear the sufferer from intolerable pain into blessed sleep, is largely a fiction. It certainly was for me. I dragged the needles out, fingers slippy with hot blood, wailing soundlessly and stumbling around in the semi darkness, clutching and shaking my head, blood fogging the walls, streaming down my neck, thin and coppery in the back of my throat. I think I ran into a wall, trying to run away from the agony. That did send me to sleep.

I woke up a couple of days later. The first thing I noticed was the sound – a dull, distant roaring, unvarying in tone or volume – the second thing was the pain, not as savage as before – similar in frequency to the sound in my head. Both ears were utterly clogged with dried, black blood through which a thin, yellow oil oozed. I tried speaking. I could hear a strange concatenation of clicks and grindings, nothing but the mechanical workings of a voice I could no longer hear. It wasn’t quite silence – but no sound from the world outside penetrated. I was in pain, and over the next day sick with a fever, but after three days the pain had subsided to a tolerable level and I was able to eat again – in peace.

I spent a couple of days just sitting on my sofa – enjoying the ‘silence’. I slept through the night for the first time in years. Then on the fourth day, I was woken up early by the sunlight creeping around my blinds. The light seemed more intrusive than I’d noticed it before. I noticed that at night time, the headlights of the cars streaming soundlessly past would splash garishly against my walls, the strobing blues of ambulances heading up the hills, the gaudy yellow warning lights of the streetsweeper’s wagon, all would seep through my eyelids and shock my brain back into hideous consciousness.

I can’t stand the light. I can’t stand this FUCKING LIGHT.

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