I hate the noises people make. They didn’t use to bother me much but recently, something in me has changed. Normally, a little cough here or sniff there would go unnoticed but lately...lately it’s all I hear.

It’s constant and relentless.

You see, I’ve recently rejoined the workforce after finally getting my life balanced out, and ended up with a nice little desk job that suits me perfectly. I work in customer support, so basically, I assist people with their issues as they call. I even have a headset and speech recognition software! I’m really not good with computers, so they had someone set everything up for me. I can now send emails and draft word documents, just by using my voice! I love technology.

For the first time in my life, things were going great. New job, new friends, new relationship possibilities, and I even got a new dog! Her name is Elle. My company even lets me bring Elle into the office! I have truly never been happier.

Then it started.

Cough

Sniff

Cough

Sneeze

These were normal sounds that I’ve heard my entire life but for some reason, now it’s like they were...amplified. Like loud, exaggerated versions of themselves. They sounded the way a person would mock someone else sneezing or coughing. It made my ears ring. How was this possible?

Was it just me?

It’s like these people were coughing and sniffing through a fucking megaphone. Did they know how loud they were being? How disruptive they were being? How annoying?

No, it couldn’t have just been me. Everyone must have heard, I mean, how could they not? It was happening practically nonstop all day. Every couple seconds there was a little sniff, cough, throat clear, or sneeze. How was I supposed to concentrate with all these...distractions? I was the new guy and I didn’t want to be the “complainer” in the office, at least not this soon but the noises...they were unbearable. I started to draft a nasty email to my boss, with my complaints, but I hesitated.

No.

That was the old me. The old, neurotic, unhappy me. The me who worried about everything and couldn’t not be in control. I took a deep breath and made a conscious choice to let it go.

That was two months ago.

It’s Spring now. Allergy season.

I thought it was bad then. It’s hell now. Every single person in my office has allergies. Every single person sniffed, or coughed, or sneezed, or cleared their throat.

All. Day. Long.

I sat at my desk, every minute of every day, listening to their noises.

You know when you go swimming or tilt your head the wrong way in the shower and you get water in your ear? You know that numb, pulsing feeling you get from inside your head? That’s what I felt every time one of them made a noise.

I started sweating constantly throughout the day. I snapped at people when they spoke to me. I yelled at customers on the phone. I even got a rash. At least I think it was a rash, all I know is the back of my neck would never stop itching. Eventually it spread to inside my ears. I must have used hundreds of Q-tips in an attempt to relieve the itch. My coworker informed me at one point, that they were coming out soaked with blood. I hadn’t noticed.

This must have freaked out some of the people around me because they eventually complained to my boss. They complained about me. I explained the issue to him and he feigned sympathy. He told me, “Allergy season would be over soon” and that “I would be fine in a few months”. Then he sent me on my merry way back to hell.

I started to walk back to my desk but as I passed the break room, I heard a loud, “sniiiiiiiiff”, followed by hushed laughter. They were mocking me. I couldn’t tell who had made the noise, but I was sure they all had laughed. I went back to my desk and sat down. The jokes and mock noises eventually stopped as the day went on, though the real ones did not. The headaches started again. My hands started shaking soon after. Eventually, all I heard was a constant ringing.

No. Not this again. I was passed this. I was passed It.

“I do not want this.” I whispered into the headset. The corresponding words typed themselves into the computer...I assumed.

Someone must have heard me because I heard whispers, followed by more mocking noises. Then they all laughed. I took off my headset, stood up, and walked into the break room, past their noises and laughs. I opened the first drawer I found and fumbled around inside, until I grabbed what felt like a pair needle nose pliers. I stuck them inside my left ear, pushing through the ear canal, scrapping the sides along the way, until I felt force against the tips. I opened the pliers as far as they could go, pushed forward slightly and closed down until I could feel flesh between the jaws. Then I pulled. I pulled everything out. I closed the pliers and made stabbing motions to loosen anything that may have been stuck and pulled out a few more larges chucks. I stabbed a few more times until my ear drum and all those little working parts that made hearing possible was nothing more than scrambled flesh. For one last time, I heard wet flesh slap against cold tile.

I snapped my fingers next to my ear, just to make sure I couldn’t hear anything.

I inserted the pliers into my right ear...poorly. They were opened slightly and I was still shaking and adrenaline was pumping, so I kind of stabbed the top and bottom sections of my ear canal. Deep. I slide the pliers out, feeling and hearing the blood starting to pour. Someone came into the break room at this point and started screaming. I knew I had jammed the pliers in correctly the second time because I heard the scream cut to black. Though, just for good measure, I yanked out a few more pieces of inner ear.

I dropped the pliers, feeling the vibration through my feet and walked back to my desk, feeling the warm liquids run down the sides of my neck. I sat down, leaned back in my chair, crossed my legs up on my desk, and my arms behind my head. Then I just listened.

Silence.

That old familiar smile formed across my face.