When the doctors first told me I had ruptured an eardrum, I can admit I wasn’t all that surprised. I’d been waterskiing on Lake Winnipesaukee and had taken a hard fall, and my ear had been in pain ever since. They gave me some medicine and told me it would heal and the pain would fade, but I’d never be able to hear quite as well as I had been able to before. I accepted this at face value, not worried. Working as a tyre salesman didn’t require the most acute senses in the world, after all.
As my ear healed, tinnitus became a bit of a problem for me. I would constantly hear scratching noises that almost felt as if they were in the cartilage of my ear, the way that you can ‘hear’ water stuck in your ear. I saw the doctors again and they reassured me that this, while uncomfortable, was a normal response. I was hearing my ear heal, as terrifying as that was. For a while the tinnitus persisted, until eventually I tuned it out. I don’t know if it ever stopped, if it did I just didn’t notice. I can’t hear it any more.
Things truly began to get strange about a week after my accident. I began to see things, the way that you see an afterimage of something bright if you look at it too long. Small squiggles in my eyesight that would fade quickly, but were seared into my memory out of their sheer oddness. Before long they stopped fading as quickly, and eventually the squiggles would dance across my vision even if I didn’t blink. I went and saw optometrists and they couldn’t find anything wrong, suggesting maybe that I wasn’t sleeping well. It was true, I had been a textbook insomniac since the tinnitus started, but I didn’t think that was the problem.
I got grumpier and slept less, the visuals of writhing squiggles pushing me half to madness. Something was wrong and no doctor would tell me quite what it was.
I think I finally knew for certain there was a real problem when I sneezed and noticed a small, white worm in my tissue.