Short Story: Soundtrack

The picture of the car accident resembled a crushed aluminum can more than a vehicle. It was taken after they cut away part of the roof and door to get me out. Crumpled metal, plastic and cheap detailing, mashed into a ball. They say it rolled eight times after the tire blew out.  I was lucky to be alive.

I awoke to a radio, blaring a 90’s pop station.

Sweet dreams are made of this.
Who am I to disagree?

So many wires, tubes and catheters hooked up to my body – I thought I was plugged into the Matrix, but I took in the surroundings and recognized that I was in a hospital room. Movement was restricted by all my connections, but I could move.

Hands and arms – check, though my left arm was in a cast and couldn’t move at the elbow.

Wiggle toes and fingers – check.

As I did this, the music changed.

You put your right leg in,
You put your right leg out,
You put your right leg in,
And shake it all about.

My God, I haven’t heard the Hokey-Pokey since I was in grade school. I found the ‘call nurse’ button and mashed it with my thumb. A minute later, the nurse showed up, smiling.  She was young and perky.

“How are you feeling?”

“Thirsty,” I said as the music changed. I recognized it as an obscure Alice Cooper song from the 80’s.

Nurse Rosetta,
I won’t let her,
Catch me peering,
Down her sweater,
Fantasizing silk suspenders on her thighs.

She poured a glass of water from the pitcher on the table and put the bendy straw in my mouth.

As I slurped, she asked, “Do you remember anything?”

“Car wreck, right?” Water dribbled down my chin and she dabbed it away with a tissue.

Nurse Rosetta,
Makes me better,
Secretly my eyes undress her,
Let me feel your tongue depressor.

Embarrassed by the song, I asked, “Can you turn the radio off?”

She gave me a perplexed look and excused herself. When she returned with the doctor, the music changed again.

Doctor! Doctor!
Give me the news,
I’ve got a bad case of lovin’ you.

He went through the usual motions. How do you feel? Light in my eyes. How many fingers am I holding up? Listened to my chest with the stethoscope. Breathe deeply.

“Look, can you please turn the radio off? Or at least turn it down?” I asked.

“You hear music,” he said, not asking, but somehow it was still a question.

“It’s just really loud. You don’t have to turn it off, but maybe turn it down?”

“Mr. Atrill, there is no music playing, but I believe you when you say you hear music. You have suffered a severe head trauma and there has been some swelling in the cranial region. It’s not uncommon that you would hear ringing or, uhm, other sounds.”

I’m crazy for feeling so lonely.
I’m crazy,
crazy for feeling so blue.
And I’m crazy for loving you.

“You don’t hear anything. Only I hear this?” I asked, pointing a finger at nothing, but indicating Patsy Cline’s eternally sad voice.

“Mr. Atrill, you are yelling. The swelling in your brain was at eleven centimeters, pushing your brain off-helix to the right. It’s receded to five centimeters, and I think will return to normal over time. Whatever you are hearing may subside when that happens.”

He smiled and the music changed again.

Cause a nigga like me is goin’ insane.
Insane in the membrane,
Insane in the brain!

“I’ll arrange for another MRI, and then we’ll know more about the status of your recovery. For now, you need to rest,” the Doctor said, producing a hypodermic and injecting it into the IV.

I want a new drug,
One that does what it should.
One that won’t me feel too bad,
Or make me feel too good.

“Count to 100. You’ll be asleep in no time.”

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.
All good children go to heaven.

That was four, almost five months ago. Eventually, I came to terms with my condition: I have my own personal soundtrack for every internal thought, turned up to dance club volume, and I can’t turn it off.

bitterkittyThe swelling in my brain went down but the music didn’t stop. The MRI showed several white dots on my brain; damage from the trauma, but no tumors or aneurisms. We test every 30 days. They can’t explain the music or make it stop.

Don’t you stop it.
Don’t you stop.
Don’t stop the music.

Initially, they thought I had a mild case of Tourette Syndrome, but I didn’t. I was just really annoyed. Listen to What’s New, Pussy Cat? at full volume over and over, and see if you don’t curse a lot, too. At least that song stopped when I got rid of my cat.

When I try to blank my mind, The Police’s De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da kicks in.

I take a lot of sleeping pills.

Tomorrow, I start shock therapy. Well, they call it Electroconvulsive Therapy or ECT, but whatever you call it, they don’t know if it will help or not.

Shock the monkey,
shock the monkey,
shock the monkey to life.

The only relief I get is when I play music – put on a CD or listen to MP3s – then my internal soundtrack switches off and I can just listen to what’s playing, but I never have a moment of quiet. Ever.

I would do anything, anything at all, for just a little peace and quiet.

And the sign said, “The words of the prophets
are written on the subway walls, and tenement halls.”
And whispered in the sound of silence.

© copyright 2011, 2013 Mitch Lavender (except for the song lyrics)


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