I sat in the meadow, smiling to myself. For the first time in a while, I felt comfortable being completely alone. My whole life, I thought that going somewhere where my spirits were lifted was something I should do in the company of others, of people I could trust. By the time I was a teenager, ‘trust’ had changed to ‘treat like family’.
And perhaps, the word family had been romanticized to mean something better than friendship, something that would be around forever. It meant I could trust them to be courteous and to have those same feelings about me.
Maybe it was the idea of good company that made the trip better, made it feel less lonely; but now I could see that being alone wasn’t a bad thing, and being in good company didn’t have to make a great place better. I had good memories of being here in company, but surely I could make nice memories on my own.
In the meadow, the grass was tall. There are some green meadows with pretty flowers and trees surrounding it, but not this one. The particular meadow was filled with tall yellowing grass, hardly any flowers in sight. I sighed to myself, reaching for my left ear. I closed my eyes as the noise level dropped. There, I thought, that makes being here even better.
The weight of the aid was something I got used to quickly, but the noise was different. Everything felt louder. Too loud, even. The echo eventually stopped, and it felt better, but I didn’t get used to the clarity and loudness until later. Sometimes even now, I felt better when it was out. I couldn’t hear the world, and I was okay. I often felt like nature, the city, and almost everything really, would be more peaceful if I couldn’t hear it. I couldn’t hear my five siblings bickering in the background, or the cars rumbling past as I sat at my desk. Silence was something to appreciate. I felt that way before I got the aid, so one could only imagine how much more strongly I felt about the idea afterward. Sometimes, the aid was around my ear, but not connected. That way I could feel the silence, appreciate my surroundings more.
The meadow was quieter now without the ‘artificial hearing,’ and there wasn’t the loudness of the wind around me. When I first got the aid, background noise was almost all I heard, shooting directly at my ear. I got frustrated with the lack of control I had between background and foreground noises. As everything else, I got used to it – tuned it out even.
The lack of noise almost made me sleepy as I closed my eyes again. The sun shone, and every once in a while, it passed over my closed eyes, brightening my black vision. Around me, almost all I hear is the rustling of grass wisp of wind and the birds. When the nearby flap of wings shattered my thoughts, I opened my eyes. The sky was greyer, but the sun shone from behind the clouds. Everything looked darker, but I could see just as clearly. A few meters away, a bird whose species I didn’t know watched me. I sat up, breathing in deeply. My hand comes up to touch the grass and I felt it shift under the wind. I resisted the urge to laugh as it tickled my palm.
I wondered what this would be like if the city was nearby. Whether airplanes would interrupt the quietness of the wind and birds, whether there’d be more people in the clearing. I imagined being completely deaf, without birds to listen to or buzzing bugs to hear. I watched the grass shift under the wind’s the current, shivering as the chill hit my back. Wind picked up for a minute and I lay down to watch the sky, ignoring my hair as it obscured my vision whenever the wind hit. Memories of getting used to the aid filled my mind.
My first time in public, downtown. It was far too loud.
My first time at a family gathering, while it was still very echoey. That was disorienting.
My first time at a restaurant. Also very loud.
My first time in a meadow. There were a lot of chirping birds.
Conclusion: it was damn loud and weird.
I remember, everyone thought my hearing was normal with a hearing aid, but it was still weaker. Especially at the beginning, where it was mostly echo anyway. (“What was that,” I’d ask. “I don’t know, you’re the one with the hearing aid,” they’d answer.) It wasn’t normal, just better – more compatible. Instead of thirty and eighty percent, it was eighty in both. Sure, I could hear a conversation that wasn’t in the same room a bit more clearly, but so could everyone else. Sure, I could hear someone approaching me, so I wasn’t as jumpy, but everyone could too. Sure, I could hear music coming from a different floor, but I’d never been able to beforehand, while everyone else could.
Comfortable on the yellow grass, I felt like I should fall asleep. Like I should forget everything. Like shutting off my brain would be best at the moment. At least I wasn’t bored, I figured as I got up. I plugged the aid back in, closing my eyes to welcome the more prominent sound of birds and crickets. Stretching, I looked around; the meadow was calmer, less windy. The sky was darker, but it didn’t look like it was going to rain. I walked around, breathing in the fresh air. At least there was fresh air, nothing that would cause a claustrophobic panic attack. I scoffed, sighing – even with the fresh air; this place is still way too open. I didn’t like large spaces either, especially not when I was alone.
I kept walking, looking back from the sky to the yellow grass moving beneath my feet. Far away, as if I was in the center, I could see the entrance to a forest on both sides, but behind me and at the, horizon was open space. I suddenly felt like running until I regretted, it lungs burning. Here goes, I thought, sighing. I’m going to stay in this meadow for as long as I can. I will not think, but I will run. I am free.
Freedom was best served warm.