Gregg says you can’t hear anything in a hurricane.
That is not true. I can hear anything. I’m like my mother. My mother could hear a mouse dancing on a snowflake in the middle of a symphony. The women in my family have tremendous ears. The men die young, but the women live forever and hear everything.
Once, at a New Year’s Eve party, I heard someone disparaging my perm all the way from across the room. This big living room with a hundred people in it, and as everyone was counting down to midnight, all I could hear was Viv Olson saying I should have gone to her hairdresser, because mine had done a butcher job.
Good hearing is a blessing and a curse.
My husband Gregg knows all about my hearing and that’s why when he insisted that I didn’t hear a scream during that hurricane, I immediately knew he didn’t want me to go poking around in whatever was going on with it. He thinks I involve myself in too many things that aren’t my business, but the way I see it, if something isn’t my business, then I shouldn’t be able to see it, touch it, read up on it, or hear about it.
I’ve never heard about what’s going on in Croatia. That means it’s none of my business. A scream I can hear perfectly well as the tree outside is ready to come crashing through the brand new addition we put on our house?
Not that it was a blood-curdling scream. It was more of a scream of surprise. But not a good surprise. A good surprise scream is the scream you let out when your husband throws you a surprise party for your 60th birthday even though he knows you hate surprises, but you feign a little scream anyway and make a mental note to chastise him later for doing exactly what he knows you don’t want him to do and also for getting a carrot cake when you would rather eat sawdust than a carrot cake.
Whoever screamed that scream was surprised, but in a bad way. The way they used to scream on old mystery shows when the killer was revealed. I watched Detective O’Shea for eight straight years, and every time he would reveal the killer and his secretary, Peggy O’Dublin, would scream, it was always the same, and that was the scream I heard during the hurricane--clear as day. In fact, when I heard it, I wondered if somebody might have been watching an old episode of Detective O’Shea, but then I reminded myself that you can’t watch that show anywhere, because they never put it on DVD, because of all the sexism and racism and that episode where a leprechaun is the murderer and they tried to take the whole thing in a supernatural direction that I didn’t care for, to be honest with you.
That meant it was a real scream made by a real person, and if I wasn’t mistaken, and I never am, it was just a block shy of where my house is over on Waggoner Street. Don’t even get me started on how the neighborhood has gone downhill over the past few years. Ever since we let them build an elementary school where the strip club used to be, the hoodlums are running wild like you can’t even begin to imagine. It makes me miss the days when all those lovely exotic dancers would be hanging out everywhere, and you could wave to them, and they’d wave back, and everybody would get a good feeling about living here. Now, if you wave at the mother of a 3rd grader, she reports you to the local police. Meanwhile, her little Bobby or Bobbarina is probably responsible for all the car thefts we’ve had going on since July. I do not trust anyone who enjoys using crayons and I’ve said that for years now. There’s a reason Gregg and I never had kids, and it’s not just because he sleeps in the kitchen. He likes the aura in there more than our bedroom. That’s perfectly normal.
In fact, he was in the kitchen sleeping--that man can sleep through anything--and I was upstairs in the bedroom signing up for different magazines when I heard the scream. I still can’t remember if I’m getting Poodlewear Weekly or not, because I tossed my laptop off the bed and ran to the window to see if I could get a better location on the shriek. I’m like a dolphin. I can trace the geography of a sound if I can get closer to it. Echos. That’s what the dolphins use. Every sound has an echo and they listen for the echo. I think that’s how it works. My boyfriend before I met Gregg was a marine biologist and he used to tell me all this stuff before he stopped returning my phone calls and moved to another country.
After I woke up Gregg in the kitchen, I made him go outside to see if he could hear anymore screaming, which was pointless, because if my hearing is a ten out of ten, his is a decimal point with twelve zeros after it before you hit another number. He came back inside, drenched, soaking my carpets because he didn’t take off his clothes outside like I asked him to, and he tried to tell me there was nobody screaming. This is why marriages don’t last, you know. Because of gaslighting like that. Luckily I am impossible to gaslight. You tell me something isn’t real, and I will keep right on believing it is no matter what proof you show me that I’m wrong. That’s how I’ve kept my beliefs about the Lincoln assassination all these years. You can go right on telling me it wasn’t Mary Todd, but it won’t make a bit of difference.
Regardless of my assertions, Gregg refused to get a search party together and the police hung up on me when I requested that they send a task force out in a hurricane to pin down the source of “a random noise”--their words, not mine.
That left me to press my face against the chilled glass of my bedroom window, my tear-stained cheek leaving a lovely heart-shaped imprint. I had been weeping at the thought of some poor soul out there in a storm, needing assistance, and unable to get any even from the woman who could hear her cry for help, but couldn’t summon up the support needed to save her. Oh sure, I could have gotten in my car and drove around looking for the active tragedy, but I got to tell you, my car doesn’t drive well in the rain, and I hate driving during conditions like that. My blood pressure goes way up and then I’m no good to anybody.
Instead, I opened up the window and screamed into the tempest--hoping my scream would reach whoever had screamed earlier, but unfortunately, that was the moment when a seagull came flying into the house, and I had to have Gregg capture it with the crockpot and keep it in the garage until the hurricane passed. By the time that fracas had subsided, it was sunny out again, and the scream was a thing of the past.
Gregg keeps saying I made up the whole thing to keep myself from going stir crazy trapped in the house with him, but I know what I heard.
Besides, when I go stir crazy, I do what any normal person does. I wash and iron all the curtains and tablecloths, and then I watch my wedding video and count up all the bridesmaids I’m still speaking to. So far Eliza is the only one left, but after the comment she made about my potato salad last Fourth of July, it’s not looking good.
She thought I couldn’t hear the comment over all the fireworks, but oh, I heard it. I heard it clear as anything. Everybody else there was ‘Ooh’-ing and ‘Ahh’-ing at the all the colors and sparklers, and I was standing there, looking at the delicious, untouched potato salad sitting on that awful checkered tablecloth of hers, and I said a few choice words about Eliza under my breath.
Nobody could hear me, of course. Not everybody has the same gifts that I do.
Some people stand there as fireworks are going off or hurricanes are raging, and all they hear is what they want to hear.
Must be nice to live that way.
Must be real nice.