This story is by Melissa Bisbano Guckin and was part of our 2018 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
I am an hour into my final exam and the noise is maddening. Looking around the lecture hall, I frantically try to find its origin but to no avail.
Tap-tap- swoosh- swoosh, tap-tap- swoosh- swoosh.
Oh my God, what is that? And why does it seem nobody else can hear it? I turn back to my paper. Last exam of the semester and I can’t concentrate.
Tap- tap -swoosh- swoosh, tap- tap -swoosh- swoosh.
I look around again, crazed. Feeling my blood pressure rising, I’m shaking and the pounding in my chest feels like I’m about to explode. Surely I’m not the only one who hears this incessant noise.
“Eyes on your own paper!” I hear my professor demand.
I attempt to object and offer my excuse of distress, but he holds his hand up in patriarchal foreboding, enforcing submission upon me and ensuring my silence. My silence, but not the quell of the sound that was bringing me anguish.
Swoosh- swoosh- swoosh- swoosh. Oh thank GOD the tapping stopped! Now if only the swo…
“Oh what the FUCK!?” I scream, banging both fists on the desk, my anxiety getting the best of me.
Just as I rendered my outburst, the professor yelled ,“Time! Papers to the front. That’s all she wrote.”
“Shit,” I mutter to myself. I didn’t have time to worry about my outburst, not when my final exam wasn’t even half way complete!
Amidst the muffled conversations and scuffing of shoes against the worn tiled floor, classmates eagerly submit their papers. I too was just about to turn in my sorry excuse for an paper when I heard it again. Click- click-click- click, swoosh- swoosh. Turning like a woman possessed, I had to see what had taken my attention from my final, inadvertently causing me to fail my exam. There he stood, innocently clicking his pen top and breathing. Breathing from nostrils so large and loud it was like “Wind Cave” of South Dakota.
“How did you do?” he asks unaware of the misery he had bestowed upon me.
“ I didn’t,” I respond curtly, turning on my heel to leave.
“Rude much?” he sneers.
“Me rude?! Just how many times CAN you click that damn pen top? And your breathing??? Really, how big is your nasal cavity?”
He steps back obviously confused and astounded by the attack I verbally vomited on him.
With incredulous disbelief he laughs, “Lady,you have issues. Seek help.”
I stand amidst dumbfounded onlookers from within the auditorium as I watch him turn and walk out the hall, leaving me humiliated and ashamed. He is right of course.
I walk across the Quad toward the coffee shop for that tall, hot, black, I so desperately need, when I hear my name. “ Bethany… Beth, wait up.” calls Sassa running up behind me, flip flops slapping annoyingly against her feet. Nice girl, her name means ‘divine beauty’ yet ironically she was saddled with a dreadfully, ugly lisp. I contemplate pretending not to hear her and continue walking. Instead, I stop and take a long, deep, steady breath, preparing myself for the painful conversation which I am about to be agonized with.
“Hi Sass,” I say as I turn to greet her. I’m sure to hold my hand up in a halting way to stop her chatter before it starts. “I’m sorry, I had an awful morning and I just need quiet and coffee.”
“Awful? What happened?” Sassa asks, truly concerned and I am relieved her question stays short and sweet awaiting a reply.
“I failed my exam. It’s stupid, crazy…I’m crazy.” I say, averting my eyes to the ground. “I need coffee. If you promise to take off your flip flops, I’ll buy you a cup.”
“Take off my…?” begins Sassa, stopping abruptly when she sees the look on my face. “Sure, sure….shoes off. Got it…..don’t understand it, but I got it.”
We make our way across the quad and to the corner booth of the coffee shop where I finally indulge myself with the much needed colombian beans. My relief is short lived as my ears find the slobbering, disgusting, slurping of coffee, along with the not so musical chimes of metal spoons clinking against porcelain coffee cups in a feeble attempt to mix their contents just right.
What I wouldn’t give to be deaf right now. Attempting to swallow down my distress, I feel as though I am suffocating. My heart feels heavy in my chest and I can’t seem to catch my breath.
I look around at the unaware offenders. Now, I know it’s me. Even Sassa is unaffected by the noise that is tormenting me. I try to drown out the sound with conversation but I simply cannot concentrate. I’m hearing ‘The Police – Message In A Bottle’ piped over the radio in the diner. UGH…..I hate this song…so redundant. Honestly, why does a song need to drone on at the end with the same line 27 times!? And why it bothers me so much is really more the question I’m beginning to focus more on these days, especially with my bizarre behavior of late.
I can’t handle the noise or the song any longer. The smothering sensation is beginning to make me hyperventilate. I make a ridiculous excuse to Sassa about needing to feed my cat, get my coffee in a to go cup and I make my get-away.
I feel like I’m going crazy. This hidden epidemic of rage inducing sound sensitivity I have is ruining my life as I know it. Everyday is becoming a living hell. It is the monster within me that has taken over my intellectual mind. Social situations are becoming less and less for me as I have learned to make excuses to avoid them. To avoid the nightmare of sound. Silence calms my soul. It tames the monster within.
Sitting on the bench just outside the lecture hall, rehashing the morning where my day went wrong, I attempt to come to grips and peace with it all. As I begin to find my composure, I hear yet another interruption… scuff,scuff,scuff,scuff….click,click,click click click, whistle whistle whistle whistle —God Damn it!….’Message In A Bottle!!!’
“Are you FUCKING KIDDING ME?!” I scream to nobody in particular. I spot him walking up behind me clicking that bloody pen cap! The same fucking pen cap he was clicking in the exam. And whistling that bloody fucking song I detest!
I can’t. Surely he is busting my balls. This can’t possibly be mere coincidence. He absolutely has got to know my hatred of sound and how deeply it affects me. He must be trying to get to my very core.
He is laughing at me now. I must took like a crazy lady screaming for no rational reason.
“You again? Rude AND crazy I see.” he laughs, never ceasing his clicking of the pen cap.
Without the satisfaction of calming myself down from all the hurtful sounds of the day and convinced that he is torturing me on purpose, rage and fury overcomes me. The monster within manifestes and I lunge at the incessant noise maker. I grab his pen and swiftly plunge it into his carotid artery thus, finally ending the hell he was inflicting upon me.
My maniacal laughter catches him off guard.
“You really are daft.” he snaps, bringing me back to reality and putting my murderous ways back in my hallucination.
“I suppose I just might be.” I concede. “But merely upon disquiet.”