My left ear is stuck back in 2005 when the teacher would roll the television in on one of those manilla carts and stick the tape into the VCR. Only I was excited about the T.V and not so enthused about the infection that had rolled on into my ear canal and stuck itself onto the soft bone of my skull.
I tell this to the doctor and she doesn’t think my analogy is funny.
“Mastoiditis is severe,” She says. “You can either go permanently deaf or it can build up on your spinal cord, you can be paralysed. You’ve had it four times in the past month.”
And then I understand that maybe my left ear is more like the spelling words we had to write out every Thursday afternoon. Or maybe its more like a relationship that you’ve been in for long that you don’t realise when it’s starting to become an infection.
For those of you unfamiliar with mastoiditis that’s what it is, an infection. It starts in your middle ear then moves to your inner ear then moves to the sacs of your mastoiditis bone till it disintegrates and eventually causes an epidural abscess on the outside of your brain.
Kinda like starting out as strangers then moving to friends then to more and more and more until eventually all you have left is an epidural abscess of everything that went wrong in your relationship. The kind of epidural abscess you can’t just cut out with a scalpel and morphine because what if’s and maybe’s get stuck in the creases of your brain.
Doctor asks me how long my ear has been like this and I say it feels like forever. Which is what people promise each other when they fall in love.
She asks me if I think I need oxydocene or the green whistle and I say I don’t care, anything but this which is what people say when they fall out of love.
She says, “This the ER, not your group chat, I don’t have time to talk about love lives, but you’re going to need surgery unless you get better.”
And I mean better is what people say it will get when someone breaks up and seven to ten days is the recovery time expected for the operation but seven to ten days is also how long it takes for reality to break your tail bone. Is how long it takes for you to forget the sound of someone’s voice when they first wake up or the way their hands felt on your waist.
Doctor says they need to take some of my bone marrow for testing and I tell her that it will be filled with the sea because no matter how many times I tried to wring all the water from my bones, they’ll never be dry and that’s what you get from kissing someone with a mouth like the ocean.
And so when I leave the hospital I can’t hear very well, my voice is getting lost in my own eardrum but at least it’s not being drowned out by someone else. I can hear my words vaguely if I listen really hard but if I listen hard enough I can hear the voices of all the people I’ve loved so I guess that doesn’t mean that much.
So I began recognising the signs, of the beginning of an earache that will become an infection, of the beginning a relationship that will become an infection. And I learnt a lot about recognising when pain creeps up so slowly that you become accustomed to being hurt. And I learnt a lot about prevention, about clearing your ears of infection that shouldn't be there, about clearing your texts of names that shouldn't be either.