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It took us 19 hours to drive from our home in Asheville to North Pomfret, Vermont, a few hours longer than usual despite only having stopped twice, for diesel and to let the dog trot circles around the parking lot, casting us glances of annoyance for having been woken up. We left in the evening after David finished work, and like idiots we drove through the entire night, something that for the past few years I've considered myself too old for.
In those dark and woozy hours between 1 and 5 in the morning, while David slept open mouthed in the passenger seat, his shoulder jammed up against the window, I may have been driving a tiny bit below the speed limit. Despite the maniacal amount of hours we were spending in an overpacked car whose seats didn't lean back, I was in no hurry.
Our neighbor across the street had recently acquired a set of enormous speakers that he rigged up in his back yard, directly facing our front door. All day he blasted country music radio, even when he wasn't out in the yard himself, and it was grinding me into a sort of depression. During those early summer days in May, when the air was warm and buoyant, I kept the doors and windows sealed shut to keep the sound out. I dragged fans into every room of our small, one level house, and set them on high, so that our home sounded like an airplane right before takeoff, and stale air whipped through the hallway. But it was better than the insidious stream of ads for Home Depot and Lowes, talk DJs and Kenny Chesney coming from across the street.
This wasn't like in college, where some friends and I had unwittingly wound up renting a place next to the unofficial UW Rugby House. They threw parties each and every Friday and Saturday night during the school year, parties that inevitably burst out of the shitty little rental house and spilled into the street, often becoming a brawl of swinging fists and girls scream crying into their flip phones. The police would eventually show up around 3am and break it up, tipped off by a certain neighbor who spent those nights sitting and watching from her upstairs window, ringing the police's 'nonemergency line' until someone showed up.
At least that situation had been temporary. Every day brought us closer to the end of the lease, when we could flee the neighborhood and find somewhere quieter, farther away from campus. Someplace where we wouldn't have to fear the weekends and their guaranteed sleeplessness. But David and I own our house in West Asheville, its purchase was a momentous occasion of pride and joy and we couldn't possibly afford to live anywhere else. And our neighbors, at least three generations of them currently live there, are never going to leave. Nor, would it seem, are they turning down the music.
"We're stuck here." I cried to David one evening. "We're going to have to hear that music forever- we'll never be able to go outside!" David was patient with me, comforting if slightly confused, but as I ranted on and became more agitated, burying my tear streaked face into the pillow, he did say, very evenly, "You know, it's a little hard to hear how unhappy you are in this house we've worked so hard on."
I didn't want him to breathe, and I don't want anyone around me to breathe, or chew, or clear their throat. It's a condition called misophonia that, understandably, nobody is all that sympathetic about. People have to chew, after all. It's described as a 'neural glitch' and it can transform me into a terrible, mean, and hideously unreasonable person. I guiltily explained my condition to David one day in Nicaragua, after a particularly, how do I put this, noisy dinner. "It's my problem," I said, looking at the ground. "But you, and everyone I love the most- you all have to experience the side effects."
This made things a little better, although I learned after the fact that he delayed proposing to me for one week because I'd yelped out, "Help!" just as he was pulling the ring from his pocket, on the summit of Bear Wallow mountain. (He had been chewing on a handful of raisins.) This, he said, kind of ruined the mood.
David was continuing up north to Labrador on a whitewater kayaking trip, and while other people balked at the idea- "right before the wedding? for three weeks?" I thought it sounded something akin to opulence. I wanted to be home and I wanted to be alone. For the past few weeks I'd been experiencing an inexplicable tightness in my chest, a searing pain that made breathing a maneuver that required concentration. The doctor, disinterested, wrote me a prescription for Ativan which had proved useless. But I knew that as soon as I reached my house in Vermont, familiar, beloved, safe and so very quiet- I knew that I'd get better. And I was almost there.
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