Many of you dear readers know I'm an accursed "R" as per an older post (It's Not Fun Being an "R"). Being an "R" today is really a contrarian thing to be: as an artist (yes, some of us truly exist), I love being contrarian. Being an "R" in my community is close to being a social outcast with a status lower than a zombie with a flesh-eating skin disease, something I have gotten a few times over the past year, resembling a raspberry tattoo although my doctor said I've eczema.
"Eczema," I screamed, aghast. "How the hell did I get that?"
"It can come at any time, sometimes later in life."
I looked down at my once pristine, velvety soft skin with stunning tattoos marred by welts, inflammations and strange bumps and groaned. My summer's now complete. I'm a total hot mess.
The itching has been unbearable and I haven't slept a wink the past several nights. None of the topical ointments work. So, I grit my teeth and try not to scratch, wishing I could fall to sleep. It reminds me of when I was a teenager and how I couldn't sleep at night. But not from itchiness. Nor horniness. Nor nerves.
It was because my father listened to talk radio all night long. For some reason, the guy had the radio on deafening volume 3" from his ears. And behind closed doors, with the air conditioning on full blast all four seasons, I could still hear the damn radio on the other side of the house, keeping me awake at night.
Several times, broken, I'd make my way to his bedroom, pushing the guard-rottweiler aside from the door. When my parents wanted to have sex, my father dragged the 120lb beast out of the bedroom while yelling, "Sonuvabitch!" the dog growling and snarling in response. Yes, I grew up with subtlety all right. The dog sprawled at the bedroom door sill despondent, his nose sniffing underneath. With the repetitive accuracy of a metronome, one paw pounded then scratched the bottom part of the door in frustration and sadness: THUD, scritch, THUD, scritch, THUD, scritch accompanied with a snorkle or two. I can't describe in words THAT sound, but can imitate it to perfection in real life having listened to it for nearly 10 years.
When I reached the door, he jumped up and growled in his role as guard dog. Then he realized, if I opened the door, he can get into the bedroom and make his way onto the bed. He wasn't that dumb a dog and moved aside while I popped the lock. He watched me in anticipation, seated and smiling in that doggy way, tongue hanging out with rapid panting.
In seconds, we entered the frozen chamber. It was so frigging cold in there you could hang meat. I mentioned it once before in my blog that I went in to turn off the air conditioner in the dead of winter while my father lay dozing in his underwear on top of the sheets. He woke up and hollered, "What are you doing?"
I responded, "Dad, you always want to save money from electricity." It was true - the man always turned the lights off in the house even while I was in my room quietly reading. "It's winter outside, why don't you open the windows?"
My father shrieked, "What are you, crazy? It's freezing outside." In actuality, it was warmer outside than in that room.
This time, when I popped open the door, the chill nearly singed my face. The dog, seated at my side while I broke into the vestal room, hightailed it inside and ran to the bed, wagging his tail stump. I could detect in the dark a giant mound on one half of the bed. That was Mom underneath 17 down blankets.
And there was Dad, in his underwear sleeping on top of the sheets in that frozen tomb with the radio perched on his nightstand blaring 3" from his ear.
Dad loved night talk radio. Back then, in the 1960's, they had tons of talk radio. He adored Jean Shepherd and foisted the man upon us. "Wanda Hickey's Night of Golden Memories," was a mandatory read.
There was another guy who had crazy people on all the time, a long time radio staple. I forgot his name. He had a tv show where these guests came on wearing chicken suits and aluminum foil hats. Being a Liberal Democrat, Dad loved the political radio shows showcasing his point of view. He hated "R"s.
I didn't become an "R" until he was dead for a long time. Just to make sure.
Getting back to my formative teenage years, mind you, the radio was so loud, I immediately got a headache. And wondered whether my parents' selective hearing had anything to do with being deafened by these radio shows.
I leaned over and turned the radio off. In two seconds, Dad's eyes fluttered wide open. "What the hell are you doing?"
At that moment, the dog jumped on the bed and burrowed his way between the mound that I called "Mom" and my dad.
"I can't take the noise!" I complained. Little did I know 42 years ago that I suffered from the beginning of hyeracusis, the extreme sensitivity to all sound. "It's keeping me up."
"Turn it back on!" ordered my father, "you woke me up when you turned it off."
By then, the dog nestled his wet snout against my father's neck. "Great. You let the dog in."
At that point, I heard a muffled sound emerging from underneath the mound. Dad moaned, "Wonderful. You woke up your mother. There will be hell to pay."
Mom tossed aside the blankets. "Wha, wha, what's going on in here?"
Dad yelled, "Maura decided to turn off the radio!"
Mom, always supportive of my father, said, "Why the hell would you do that?"
"Mom, it's too loud and keeps me up at night."
That wasn't the only thing: my mother blasted the goddamn tv set all day and all night as well. Sometimes, I would leave my bedroom while studying for school, walk across the house and lower the volume. Only to endure her wrath as well as my siblings'. "Why are you doing that?"
They're all dead, but they had their hearing intact to the ends of their days. Makes you wonder, right?
Reluctantly, I flicked the radio back on. The noise echoed in that room. Before I sped out, my father yelled after me, "Don't even think of turning off the air conditioning."
While I now lie on my bed awake after another excruciatingly itchy eczema attack - after chasing the deer away from eating the flowering shrubbery underneath my bedroom window, flatulating and stinking up my bedroom from outside - I watch the sun rise recalling those fond memories of my inability to sleep due to sound issues.
Sleepless, I turn on my computer and navigate to my Facebook page. That's where I write incendiary things, supporting the GOP (whether I want to or not) just to get a rise from my politically correct Liberal Democrat friends and, at the same time, bait my GOP ones. I saw that they, as well, were up all night, having lively and extensively researched discourse on my timeline, beating each other over the head with the printed word.
Hey, I may not be able to listen to talk radio anymore, but this is the next best thing.
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