Every breath you take

July 2, 2020

Before Carol and I met in person two years ago, she wanted me to know she wore hearing aids. I guess she viewed it as some sort of disability or infirmity that I should be aware of in case I had any second thoughts. What she would soon learn after we were together for a while is that being hard of hearing in a relationship with someone who doesn’t talk much hardly qualifies as a disability. Adaptive response would be a more accurate designation.

Occasionally, Carol would say to me, “I think my hearing aid batteries need replacing, to which I’d respond, “No, dear, I just haven’t said anything all day.” As far as having to repeat myself to her when I did talk, I was quite used to it, having grown up with a mother who made me repeat myself just so it sounded like we were having an extended conversation.

Recently, Carol realized though it was time to replace her ten-year-old set, which had nothing to do with her – how shall I phrase it? – “pithy” husband. I couldn’t disagree with her, given that our neighbors two, three and eventually four doors down from us could increasingly hear our TV at night. The old ones also had a quirk of going “squink” and “woink” when I bent close to say goodnight to her. It was like going to sleep next to R2D2.

“Occasionally, Carol would say to me, “I think my hearing aid batteries need replacing, to which I’d respond, “No, dear, I just haven’t said anything all day.”

The new ones, of course, come with all the technological improvements made over the last ten years, which includes bluetooth. Carol can now talk on the phone (the phone rings straight to her ear, as if she has ESP), without earphones, listen to Pandora, while I sit silently next to her, and, as soon as an accessory arrives, watch and listen to TV while I read or write. (The completely unfounded but frightening possibility that these new aids will allow her to hear my private thoughts are starting to keep me up at night.

But this ability to channel television volume directly to her hearing device is the most intriguing for me. Carol walks regularly in our 55+ community, and if this does what she says it does, I’m thinking I might be able to learn just how many of my neighbors who don’t wear masks are doing so because they’re watching FOX News. (I’ve since been informed that this would not be possible, as the accessory is not portable. Plus, the look I got when I suggested the surveillance angle did not inspire confidence that Carol would have a shred of interest or possess the utter lack of integrity it would take to carry out my mission.)

The sort of glaring issue that’s emerged with these improved hearing aids is that my various daily and frequent bodily eructations are being easily detected now. Carol’s pointed, “I heard that” replies are forcing me back into a straitjacket of comportment I’d become quite comfortably able to ignore earlier.

It’s eerie. It’s like that old song by The Police, except in my version, it’s “every breath you take, I’ll be hearing you”- like I’m living in some kind of Twilight Zone episode now.

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