The loud, overpowering blast shakes everything in my field of vision, with the added bonus of excruciating ear pain. I catch the culprit, my sister, with the air horn in her hand.
“STOP IT! THAT HURTS!” I scream. Tracy clunks the can down on the dining room table and the sweet silence returns. Blinking back tears, I say, “I can’t begin to tell you how painful that sound is – please don’t do it again.”
“I thought you couldn’t hear well. You hear what you wanna hear!”
“Right – I’ve got selective hearing. That’s why I wear these $6,000 hearing aids – just for fun.”
“It wasn’t that loud. If that hurt you, you must have good hearing.”
Should I keep my mouth shut or should I attempt, once again, to explain to a normal hearing person the experience of recruitment? She’s my sister; she’s not just a normal hearing person. She needs to know. I kidnap the air horn and shove it in the top of my closet.
“Tracy, I have a condition that makes certain frequencies grow abnormally loud – it’s called recruitment. My hearing aids suppress some frequencies when they get to a certain volume, but they don’t always stop sounds from becoming painful.
That air horn can destroy what little hearing I have left.”
Through half-closed eyes, Tracy peers at me. She rolls her eyes and pushes her chair back. As she walks toward the kitchen, she hollers, “I’m startin’ the potato salad now!” to no one in particular.
A month later, Tracy returns to celebrate Mother’s Day with us. She and my mother are at the table while I send an email from my room. Once again, the blast of the air horn strikes, but the distance prevents it from being a painful, vision-shaking experience.
“Why is it every time you’re here that stupid air horn goes off?” I yell accusingly at my sister. She doesn’t say a word, but I see my mother and sister exchange glances. “I’m taking this thing again. Everybody needs to leave it alone.” This time I hide it in my bottom drawer, out of sight.
A few months later, while rummaging around in my bottom drawer at 3:00 am looking for peppermint essential oil for my clogged nose, the air horn blasts again as the movement of my possessions squeezes the trigger. This time I have no one to yell at but myself.
When daylight hits the next morning, I gingerly dig the air horn out from the bottom of the large drawer. Taking great care to not make contact with the trigger, I wrap the can in three plastic grocery bags, knotting them together securely. Holding the package away from my body to sever all possibility of touching it, I step outside and slip on the wet, mossy stone path. I fall in slow motion, with a heightened awareness of the package. I let go of it, hoping to avoid contact. My face lands on the trigger. The air horn blasts, exponentially louder than the previous three times, the sound so painful that I’m unable to move or think. I lose consciousness and when I wake up, the can is still under my face, but it’s no longer making a sound. In fact, everything is completely silent. Since that day, I’ve never heard another sound.