Too Much Noise
Dave hated parties. He hated crowds, he hated big outings, he hated anything that brought a lot of excitable people into an enclosed area. Right now, the party in the dormitory basement rec room had him quietly boiling at the edge of madness. He sat alone at a table, hands over his eyes, half-empty glass of water in front of him, waiting for the first effects of the sedatives to carry him to peace and quiet.
“Man, I need another beer! Beer! Beer!” Dabrowski, the alcoholic-inresidence, let himself go wild at these parties, as if his usual hedonistic ways were not enough. As a thick athlete whose live was dedicated to the pleasure principle he was a bona fide stereotype, but once he cut loose, his frenetic energy brought him to the very limit of bursting into flames.
Through the veneer, however, Dave knew that inside, Steven Dabrowski was a very troubled individual who suffered from some horrible demons, all the more reason to be such a party monster on the outside. Still, on nights like this one, Dave just wanted the raging sophomore to shut it down for a while or take it far, far away.
To Dave, everyone at the party was a poster to be read, a billboard of doubts and fears, joys and thrills. When Dave was young, he could pick up on little quirks and translate them into things his immature self didn’t understand. And as he grew up, entered his teens then went to college, it intensified. It was no longer like a meaningless hobby but an impulse, a demand to reach out and understand everything about a person from that one experience. Even more than that, the obsession felt like the world dragged him out despite every desire to just have a moment to himself.
“Time to hit the dance floor!” That was Karen, another college student wearing a special costume of emotions to hide a fragile, wounded persona.
Everyone in the dorms knew her as short and a little pudgy but extraordinarily cute, but Dave could grasp the desperation of her heart and the raging conflicts that tore at her. Her every action, motion and thought spoke of a shy girl who wanted more than anything to escape from a life of never being chosen. Now she craved attention like a drug. If tonight’s party went as usual, she would dance for about 15 minutes, have another drink and an ‘accidental’ nipple slip, then two drinks later she’d be topless on a table doing the twist. It would end with her hooking up in some guy’s room, and those couplings always managed to wake up Dave if he was not sedated. Those cries and moans were pangs of loneliness that made him want to cry.
With another sip of water, Dave rubbed his fingertips, hoping they would start feeling tingly and numb from the sedatives, and he could stumble to bed. As the party boiled around him he placed his head down, chin on the table, eyes shut and hands over his skull, trying to maintain an outer calm for a few more minutes. Just long enough to drown out everything around him.
The only blessing tonight was the music. Digitized, pre-recorded music worked fine for him. It would fill the basement rec room with a good beat that could loosen him up, and sometimes he could find solace in a regular rhythm – any steady rhythm could calm him human claustrophobia. He kept a metronome by his bed to hypnotize himself to sleep. But if someone was actually DJing, mixing music and putting that extra factor – the human element – into it, the beat vanished and it became constant noise from the DJ that would fill the entire dormitory. It was madness. “Just shut up for a minute!” he shouted aloud. Nothing changed.
Dave wanted to retreat to his room right now, but he knew that was just not possible. Gatherings like this have that way of finding him, and fighting against the tide of drunken party monsters was futility in motion. It even aggravated the situation. His sedatives would make for a fine escape, allowing him to tune out. Even if Dabrowski dragged him out of his room in the middle of the night and tossed into the rec room, he would sleep through it all.
“You know, Dave should get into this!” When that phrase from Dave’s roommate Erich came out, it elicited a groan. Dave figured it would now be a matter of seconds or minutes before the masses dragged him to a keg or the dance floor or worse. The recruiting mob would form shortly. He could only hope Erich was not so drunk as to fall in with the mob mentality and forget that they were roommates. He put his face to the table and folded both arms over his head, hiding like an ostrich.
Erich came up the stairs and barged into the kitchen. “Hey, Dave, you in here? Why are the lights off?”
Dave groaned from the table. He noticed Erich’s voice wasn’t slurred and he seemed sober. He also seemed like he’s having a real good time and has forgotten for now how he’s failing half his classes. Dave could detect that Erich actually seems half-worried, or at least concerned enough to leave lights off.
“Dave,” he started with caution, “is it another migraine? Is it the music? I didn’t know you could hear that all the way up here on the third floor. I can’t even hear it up here.”
Dave raised his head, realizing he was in the kitchen and not in the middle of the party. “Yeah, it’s like a migraine.” Dave could still hear the wildness of everyone around him, only they weren’t there. Getting things like this mixed up happened a lot, and Dave hateed it every time. “Just not feeling good.” “Oops, there goes my boob!” Karen announced.
Dave looked at Erich, realizing he isn’t hearing Karen’s statement. Erich can’t hear any of this. Erich is on the third floor and not down in the basement with the party. To him it’s just a quiet kitchen. But to Dave everything is loud and clear.
Erich takes a couple of steps in. “You take anything for that headache? You need something?”
Dave took a deep breath. “No, I’ll be fine. I took some of my sleeping pills. They usually do it.”
“Guy, you should really see a doctor about those headaches. You’ve been getting those things a lot this year.”
Dave nodded, holding back from saying how nobody would believe the full story. Dave knew the full story would earn him a special ticket to the Laughing Academy, a one-way trip to a padded room at the Puzzle Factory. No thanks.
The thunder of heavy feet rushing up the steps cuts off our discussion as a very excited Dabrowski rushed in. “Dudes! Karen’s ta-ta just popped out on the dance floor! I think she’s gonna take something off! Dave, Erich, c’mon! You’ll miss the show!”
Erich leaned toward the door, looking back quickly. “Uh, you’re gonna be okay, right?” Everything about Erich screamed that he wanted to go watch Karen undress.
Dave waved him off. “Go. I’m fine. Go.” Before he finished, Erich had already rushed down the stairs.
In the empty room, Dave sipped some more water at the kitchen table, dreading what was to come. He had nothing against Karen’s fine breasts, but once they came out the party would get worse. It would get raucous and wild, and everyone would get excited, and all those wild thoughts and emotions would ring in his ears.
A tingling sensation warmed his fingertips and made his nails feel loose. The sedatives were kicking in, and soon he would be pleasantly asleep.
Drinking the last of his water, he headed toward his room with heavy feet.
It had been a long time since Dave last felt sorry for himself. He knew that this ability – telepathy, ESP, psychic power or whatever – was special and amazing, and hardly something to whine about. But on nights like this, he wished it had an off switch. Instead, every thought of every person around him was a whisper in his ear, every emotion a conversation he could not escape. When there was a party, he sensed every thought coming from it, even if he was three floors away. It was like sitting in the middle of it, so real that he sometimes lost track of where he actually was.
Tapping the metronome into motion, he fell onto his mattress with a leaden thud. The numbness in his hands infiltrated his mind, muffling all the thoughts and emotions from the party. The shouts from the world became mumbles, then whispers from under wool blankets, then disappeared. He could only hear the metronome, his own thoughts in the silence, and that one other voice that always understood him.
That other voice was the other thing he knew nobody would accept, so it remained another little secret. The other voice understood him and comforted him like a warm hug. It told him he would get through this, and everything would be alright. The thought made him smile. The voice always made him smile. Except for those times when it said things so horrible it made him shake in terror and wake up clammy from sweat. Thankfully, those thoughts weren’t present tonight as he drifted into a sedated peace.
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