I remember the first time I heard the noise. I was about 3 years old. I know most people don’t remember that age but for some reason I remember that age. The only reason I know I remember is because I have asked my mom about things and she would always get the same look: how on Earth do you remember that?
I was sitting on the toilet. I remember specifically, holding onto the toilet seat with my little hands as if I could prevent myself from falling in. I remember looking up at the window high above our tub. I remember blue. I don’t know if it was a blue shower curtain or blue tile or what, just blue. I remember looking at that little rectangle of a window and seeing the streaks of light shining through that window from the sun. And then it ticked. My ear. My right ear. In my right ear. I even remember shaking my head. It sounded like wings. Wings were in my head. A bug! I stuck my finger in there to feel it, nothing happened, the noise didn’t stop. If it did, I don’t remember that part. But the buzz was like the incessant flapping of a beetles wings. I can still remember the image in my head, as unbelievable as it sounds even as I type it out, I remember imagining a beetle just flap-flap-flapping away near my brain. I don’t even know if I was old enough to know what a brain was!
The noise never stopped but it changed over time. It became lower, deeper, less buzzy and more…comfortable in my head. From that day on that toilet forward, I heard the noise. It was just always there. When I was a little bit older, I assume around 6 or so because of the bedroom my mind brings up with this memory, the noise began to change again. It wasn’t just comfortable. It was now a part of me. I had yet to question it and instead played a game with it to help me sleep. I started to count its beating. I didn’t just count it; I made it a full on performance. There was a little man who worked in my head and he controlled the elevator of my thoughts. With each beat, he worked the elevator and I would count the rotations of the gears. Eventually I would fall asleep like someone who counted sheep.
One day I asked my mom if she could hear her heart:
“When you go to sleep and you put your ear in your pillow, does your heart beat into your pillow?”
My moms answer, as well as everyone else’s in the coming years was “Sometimes.” The older I got, the more info people would add into this answer. Some thought it was just blood pressure slowing down as your body relaxed for sleep. Some thought it was the opposite; that your heart was speeding up as it prepared you and your thoughts for adventures in sleep. But what I failed to connect was the one simple answer that was never the same as my own: sometimes.
I spent so little time thinking about the noise that I never really thought it was wrong or abnormal. Everyone else said they heard it sometimes too. I never once acknowledged any patterns though they were there. I never once thought to consider why it was loudest at night, after an orgasm or why it would speed up when I became excited for any number of reasons or why it quieted to a low simmer after smoking a big fatty. I never thought to try to understand this noise, I simply accepted it as a part of my being, a part of life, not knowing it was only a part of my life.
Whenever I made out with a boy as a young teen and eventually as a young adult, the noise would change back into its buzz from its nice calming beating. This was how I knew I was kissing the “right” guy. This was how I identified my attractions to boys and men. If there was no buzz, then this kiss was pointless and sex would be boring. I thought it was totally normal for this to happen and when I would write short tasteless and artless romance stories out of boredom, I always included this buzzing in the ear because I thought all people heard it.
This noise was a big part of me. I cannot describe how big of a role it played in my life because it was just…there and I took it for granted. This thing was my heart, it was the ocean, it was the air in my head, it was all of my emotions and thoughts connecting to make this one singular rhythm that I could move to, think to, breathe to. It was everything inside of me functioning as one with everything around me. If I had trouble sleeping, I would count the waves, I could imagine the waves, visualize them, feel them on my toes that sank into the sand. If I was upset and crying for whatever reason, I’d lay on my bed and put my pillow over my head so nothing could distract me from counting the beats of the sorrowful tune that played in my head. I had my life resting in my ear and this beetle played the smallest violin just for me.
When I heard it pop, I thought nothing of it. I didn’t know it would be the last time I would really get to hear it sing to me. I was rushed to the ER then moved to a new hospital. I had an embolization and it drove the beetle crazy, the waves crashed against my head as if they were trying to break down all the walls that held them captive. Everything was so loud. But the morphine worked wonders for us. She quieted the beetle, soothed the elevator man so he could get some much-needed rest and created a buffer to muffle the crashing of the waves. I had a second embo less than a month later and everything went back to normal. My waves had returned, the beetle had his violin and the elevator man was back to help me sleep. The only problem was this new disturbance that took over the neighborhood. My thoughts ran rampant, they destroyed a lot of me. I was in a bad way, I was suicidal, I was in a rage and I couldn’t find a way out. No one could help me, not the elevator man, not the waves; not anyone or anything. Fear took over me, I had no idea what was in my near future nevermind my actual future. I could care less about a beetle in my head when my thoughts ran wildly over it.
I had a craniotomy a month later. When I woke up after the 13 hour surgery and a 24 hour induced coma, I heard nothing but this high-pitched grounding noise. Once that dulled a new noise took its place and it was this cracking, popping, settling noise. It was the sound of my skull finding it’s place in its home again. It was the sound of bone marrying bone to mate and fuse to protect the soft tissue of the child beneath it. Then silence. Just silence. There was nothing but silence.
Do you have any idea how loud silence is? When you live your whole life without silence and then you are suddenly placed inside of this insulated room with a thick sound barrier to protect you from all noise, you realize there is no such thing as true silence. This is where I was. My thoughts were louder than ever before and I was able to explore them more and it drove me crazy. Literally. I was angry all the time. What do I mean was? I am still angry and still crazy. I can hear myself now. I’m pretty annoying. I had no idea I had so many thoughts in my head. I saw everything, I saw everyone. I heard it all, I finished all my thoughts. I was going mad because reality was suddenly becoming a real thing. I had no waves to drown my thoughts in, I had no beetle to play his violin over the sound of my voice that spoke to me when I wanted to hide from the truths that surrounded me. There was no longer an elevator man who controlled the balance of my thoughts, there was nothing but me.
This was how I learned about my bruit. In the new quiet of my life I learned that I really can’t blame anyone for not liking me. Now that I see myself, hear myself, have finally met myself, I’m a pretty awful person who spent her entire life building a wall of denial around herself. That’s not a good thing. I learned about the people around me because there was nothing there to stop my thoughts from venturing into areas I would have otherwise barricaded with mini violins, non-existent oceans and transparent elevator men. I learned my family is no better than me by any means. I learned people are selfish. I learned I am selfish. I learned how little control over my own mind I had. I learned I had lived a life directed by lies. I learned that facing these lies and turning them over to see their truths is a painful journey I would never wish upon anyone. All of this is because of a noise that was taken from me. All of this is because I had found solace inside of something that eventually tried to kill me.
The bruit was not normal. It was a sign of something deadly. Every time I heard it meant I was listening to my AVM feed. Every pluck on the violin string was the sound of my day of reckoning approaching me. Every crashing wave was the sound of me burying my head in the sand waiting to be drowned by the truths hidden in the weeds floating in this sea of lies. Every time I turned to the elevator man to help me find peace in sleep, he was lowering me closer to a place where silence would become my loudest enemy. All of my friends turned and I was alone with this aftermath of madness.
I miss my bruit. I miss the whooshing of my heart singing its melody while it fed the deadly tangle in my brain. I miss the readiness of my denial, I miss the cloud I lived on where I ruled and reality was the dream…not the cloud. I miss my AVM. That is not normal. When I declare I miss my bruit, it’s admitting I miss my AVM because that was the purpose of the bruit, to notify me my AVM was hungry and thirsty for blood. And I miss it. I don’t like this silence. It’s not just white noise because it is filled with words that I don’t want to hear, that I don’t want to think, that I don’t want to admit. I’d rather have my ocean back, my violin, my elevator man, Mr. Bruit please come home and sing to me, play for me one more time.