you should be better at this by now.
the doctor says that. i didn't need a doctor to tell me.
but the nerves are frayed and i cannot connect the dots.
i warn you: this will be disgusting. there will be blood.
because after all these years, i still cannot put a nose bleed together with a vague cranial pressure to arrive at the conclusion that something has gone horribly wrong in my inner ear. because those three things do not make sense. if an ear is infected, it should hurt. mine does not. to its detriment.
and so i cannot anticipate what comes next. it is always a surprise. like a piñata.
the oncoming waves. the blood. the brain matter. it doesn't hurt, i assure you. it doesn't. it's almost a strange comfort. this feeling that my face is rocking back and forth in rhythm with some sea i did not know i was sailing on.
and yet i have sailed this sea before. i know it like the back of my hand.
it's reassuring. a release. until i remember that it augers something horribly bad. something i am not meant to enjoy. something shameful. a pleasure i'm not meant to be discussing, much less putting into words.
a normal person would've complained long before this. anyone with lively nerves would've been in tremendous, unbearable pain. would've gone to the doctor ages ago with a swollen ear drum on the brink of infection. long before there was a rupture. before there was blood.
i've seen those people. my mother is one of them.
whenever she gets an ear infection, the inevitable email comes. the apology. for not having enough sympathy for me when my ears hurt. when they were infected. when they bled. when i cried. when i was just a little girl.
i do not blame her. it's nothing to do with her. it's my inheritance. faulty feet and fucked up ears.
and yet she apologizes. for not having enough sympathy. for not bringing me enough soup in bed. for all those years when i had a cotton ball stuffed down my ear canal to staunch the blood, the gray matter, the inexplicable green stuff that trickled out at a rate that horrified me even then, as a third grader. for when my ear drum ruptured and i could still feel it. for when it hurt. and for when i thought that meant i was being punished and she could not convince me otherwise.
my mother regrets all of this. now, she feels my pain, which is ironic since i feel nothing.
any normal person would've felt this. this infection i had last week. that is why this doctor- this doctor who does not know my ears- blames me. why she stands there and says that i should be better at this. i should've taken better care of myself. that i have a history, a great trove of experience to build upon. i should know something is wrong. i should feel something.
and still i feel nothing. i've felt nothing for years, because i am not normal. this does not hurt me.
because this is my bad ear. my right ear. the reason i've walked to your right all this time.
you may not've known there was a reason. it tends to make people talk too loud so i try to keep it quiet. and it's this really long story of how in 1985 my grandma ruth sent my a toy surgical kit and i laid in a bed in st. francis hospital in pink cookie monster footie pajamas with the banner my aunt pam had made of my name in pink marker on 8 1/2 x 11 pieces of poster board tied together with pink yarn suspended over my crib and my grandfather fed me doritos after i came out of anesthesia, much to the horror of my mother to whom this excess was later justified by the phrase, well, the baby needed to eat.
you might've assumed i took right-handedness to a whole new level. you might've not known that i heard nothing when i stood on your left.
i heard nothing because my right ear is fucked up.
there've been surgeries my whole life but there is no solution. this is the way it is. it's the way it's going to be. i have made my peace with that. with this piece of me that went numb so many years ago. i am resigned. i have sailed this sea. i know it like the back of my hand. the back and forth. the rhythm. the hush.
please believe me. please do not tell me that i could be any better at this, because i cannot. and that is not my fault. it's just the way it is. it's just my right ear. it feels nothing.