Speak // Swallow Me Whole

The below audio recording is an auditory transcript of this essay

I’ve got my earbuds in and his voice – soft, yet rough, my favourite tempo – fills my ears. I could hear him speak for days, would listen to him read his shopping list, would memorize every lilt and drawl if I could.

I’ve always been drawn in by some voices, repulsed by others, ambivalent to most. I was this way long before I learned about sensory disorders and never thought much of it – after all, everyone has things that sound better to them, right? Some voices simply affect you more than others.

His is almost too much for me. The lights are out, my eyes shut, arm blocking out what little light remains, blocking out as much as I can except this voice. This voice on its own is such a rich, intense sensory experience that it almost hurts when anything else is added to it; it feels like I’m downing in it, like it will swallow me whole.

Sometimes I feel like he will swallow me whole.

Screenshot from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them of a white skinned person holding a teacup out with something blue spilling into the open top

Sometimes I feel like I am choranaptyxic; able to grow or shrink to fit the space I am given, comfortable at any size as long as I can feel the walls around me, as long as I know where the boundaries are. I’m not always sure where his boundaries are and it leaves me feeling as though the space I am given is not static; I don’t always know if we’re on the same page, and I haven’t yet figured out how to ask in a way that will let us hear each other’s replies.

It’s hard to speak in a way that another person can understand.

We’ve stopped hearing each other for now, the back-and-forth is more frustrated because we can’t find our way back to what the other is saying and I don’t want to listen to him speak anymore and yet I never want him to stop.

He speaks and I am either drawn in or pushed away.

It’s never intentional, but some days it feels more excruciating than beautiful and I don’t know how to listen without feeling torn to shreds. Nothing is wrong; existing just hurts sometimes, feelings are just more than my body knows how to process.

I spend a lot of time making jokes about my sensory “issues” – oh my god, don’t let me touch that avocado, I would rather sand my arm off – but it’s way more than that. It’s liking something so much it hurts you to experience it, it’s blackout curtains and noise cancelling headphones, it’s trying to take off a client’s wool shirt without being visibly repulsed by that feeling against your skin, it’s struggling to find a way to say that sometimes, him speaking hurts me.

Not because of what he says, but because of how strong his voice hits me. Depending on where I’m at, hearing even a “hello” can hit me like a ton of bricks – leave me feeling important and valued or ignored and misunderstood, and everywhere in between. How do you tell someone this? It isn’t them and there’s nothing they can do about it, it just is because the sound of them latches onto your insides like a hook and it simply can’t be helped, I just experience the world differently than most. How do you tell them that the way their voice feels makes you want to cry and this isn’t good or bad but it just is and that it’s worth it every time?

I don’t know how to say that. But I know how to say that I miss him, I love him, and I want to see him again. I know how to say anything for you, Sir. I know how to give in to the sound of him speaking to me, to submerge myself in the sound until I can hear it weeks later when I close my eyes and stand perfectly still.

A phone, left, open to a skype call log with white earbuds resting on the right side of the image

I lost the train of his thought but I feel the weight of him coming from across the line and it’s peaceful. I wonder, absently, if his voice would overwhelm me this much if I could see him regularly or if I hadn’t fallen for him through his words. There’s no way to know, but I bet it would no matter what.

Hearing him like this makes me unbearably sad. Hearing him is my favourite thing.

His voice comes through the headphones and for a second there I could have sworn that, if I only reached my arm out, I would be able to touch him. I know better than to believe that, even when my body is convinced he’s there.

I keep my eyes closed, arm draped over the top of my face.

I sigh. I miss being near you.

He speaks and I drink it in.

He speaks and I am swallowed whole.

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