Music to his ears
Ben slouched in the familiar blue love seat staring blankly at the fish tank. He knew all the fish by now, and was getting annoyed at the gouramis for picking on the tetras.
The office was slowly emptying out until there was only one person left. He was an absolutely wretched looking parapalegic in a wheelchair with a patch over one eye. The fact that he was in that particular waiting room would mean that he was most likely deaf as well. He guessed him to be in his 50s. The man smiled and nodded making Ben aware of the fact that he was staring rudely at him. Ben didn’t really care about being rude. He was used to being stared at and had no problem passing humanities insensitivities on to others. He nodded back slightly without changing his fixed expression. The mans happy countenance bothered him and he asked him, “Why so happy?”, fingers flying. The man answered back from across the room (one of the perks of being deaf is that you can reply across the room without shouting), “I’m happy because I’m alive” he paused and then added, “you should try it someday”. He waited for an expression but got an indifferent raised eyebrow in return. The Doctor came out and motioned for Ben to follow him.
They realized something was terribly wrong a few days after Bens birth when he failed to respond to sound. But the crazy thing was he seemed to be able to hear his mobile and was able to follow it with his eyes when it was turned on. After weeks of tests it was determined that Ben had an extremely rare condition where he was deaf to everything but music. Ben was only able to hear music and nothing else. His doctors tried to devise a system where his parents could communicate with him through music. But he was growing into a miserable boy. He felt irritated by everything and resentful toward the whole world. His schedule fell into a monotonous pattern that bored and depressed him. He’d hitch a ride to school and blankly stare out the window at the silent world around him. When he got to school he had a special teacher teach him utilizing sign language with another boy, but he was failing at all his classes.
He was 17 now and sitting in his Doctors office when he encountered this strangely happy person with the ugly black plastic glasses.
When he was done with the Doctor he came out and instinctively looked to where the man was sitting but found his Mom sitting there with her warm smile. He picked up his backpack and brushed past her to the car.
When he got home that night, and was unpacking his backpack a folded up piece of paper fell out. He opened it and saw the following words Accepting Who You Are by Archie Hunter. Later that night he went to Amazon and looked up the book and impulsively ordered it.
Two nights later, he walked into his front door to the usual assortment of characters walking around mouthing things silently. Then he saw a box from Amazon on the floor. It was his book. He took it up to his room and opened the front cover. There was a picture of Archie Hunter staring out at him with thick black plastic glasses. Ben smiled to himself, somehow he had a feeling it was him. The narrative was an extraordinary tale of heroism, tragedy and ultimately acceptance.
Archie was a young soldier in Vietnam when his helicopter was shot down and he lost one leg, his hearing and suffered burns over 40% of his body. After lengthy stints in hospitals he emerged, broken and alone in an America he no longer recognized. He suffered from severe depression for a few years and was hospitalized. It was there that he suddenly had an epiphany.
He was stuck in a windowless room and after much lobbying, was moved to the room at the end of the hall with a small window opposite his bed. The window was about 3 by 2 ft. It gave him a view of the top right corner of a brown apartment building, a few branches of an oak, a small patch of blue sky and the occasional passing bird. At first he was really upset at this tease of the outside and he even considered cutting off his left ear. On the third day in his new room he was laying there watching a bird on the window sill and found himself smiling.
He thought, theres a beautiful world out there and apparently the world is not revealed to everyone equally. The only way for him to see the beauty of the outdoors is through this small window that was given to him. And then he thought, right now, the only way for him to experience anything is through this body. As crippled as it was it was HIS. His window his only window. He decided he would quit fighting and embrace his situation and learn to live again with the only body available to him.
Ben lay back on his bed and let his mind absorb all he had just read. Visions of the happy cripple in his doctors office and his life story, his philophy of acceptance, it made so much sense. He decided right then and there that he would make an effort to accept his place in the world with a healthy attitude.
The next morning Ben woke up and splashed water on his face ready to become a new man. He decided that he would walk to school instead of hitching a ride. It was beautiful weather for a 20 minute walk. April sunshine was making the world bloom. For the first time in his life he would taking in the beauty of blooming leaves and flowers. The breeze was sweet to his intake, neighbors he’d never seen were smiling at him and birds were fluttering around all over. He felt alive.
Suddenly there was a small rustling sound. Then a small chirp. He stopped in his tracks, his heart racing. He dropped his bag with a thud and just stood there, eyes trying to follow the increasing sounds. He didn’t know what they were but it was exhilirating to hear. The world was spinning around and around as sounds surrounded and enveloped him. Children laughing, rustling trees, birds chirping. He started running down the street yelling at the top of his lungs I COULD HEAR..I COULD HEAR before collapsing in his front lawn.
The Doctor looked at the test results brows furrowed before exhaling and murmuring “I don’t know what to say..nothing has changed in his condition..”