I hate putting on my cochlear implant processors first thing in the morning.
The shock of sound pummels me, knocking me over, with that leap in my stomach like when you go over a hill in the road too fast.
Because wearing them too long in the day makes my skull bruised and tender and my brain tired, slapping the magnets on my head is usually what I do last. Often I do not even put them on until I am in my car, where I know it is silent and still for my transition from the white noise of my brain to the roar of sound in the world around me. I hate it. It is revolting and horrible and painful, and I don’t understand why anyone would want to be hearing.
Until I hear the sweet, soft voice of my mother.
Or the delightful laugh of my niece.
Or the silly pathetic groans of my ugly puppy.
Or the tickle-ey rhythm of the rain.
Or the power of the symphony when I can feel it in my bones.
U less, of course, I forgot to turn off the radio when I drove home last night, in which case the roar of the symphony at the moment I turn on my processors will make me throw up.
It’s a gamble I don’t want to play. So before I turn them on, I always touch my door panel, with the lightest fingertips, and check for vibrations by the speaker before I actually turn them on.
So usually, until this moment, my processors are still laying by the chargers, the batteries still in the charger from the night before, until this moment when I grab my things and run to the car to begin my day.
Except the last three days.
I have, like a naughty child on Christmas, awakened at four in the morning to sneak over to my dresser and twist my batteries off the charger like I am opening a present I am not supposed to see yet. I twist the batteries onto the processors, grab the earphone attachment, and run back to my bed before I can catch me. I untangle the cord (it is always tangled, because I am Emily), and plug each attachment into each processor. Then I turn the processors on, and then hook them on my ears, and slap the magnets into place. My stomach almost betrays me, as if it knows I should not be trying to listen before breakfast, but I argue with it, demanding to know when else in the day do I have time for this? I plug the cord into my iPad, and turn it on.
The Hebrew alphabet dances before me. It is day three of studying the sounds since I returned home from my trip. My digital ears can now, after recognize the isolated sound of each letter. For me, who was learning English last year, this is huge.
But for learning a language, this is only an infantile step on a daunting mountain.
I have the individual sounds down, but am trying to teach my brain to recognize the sounds in small words. It doesn’t yet, and it is exhausting work.
I remember last year, when I was doing listening rehab to learn English with these digital ears of mine. I remember how frustrating it was to have a quick mind and know how to read English but be unable to recognize small child-words, how impossible it was to learn the difference between a “puh” sound or a “buh” sound, and how painful the “shhh” sound.
It was torture I did not care to repeat.
Except here I am, torturing myself again, on purpose.
This is how hungry I am to know, how hungry I am to learn.
Even though my body is just hungry for breakfast, and confused about why we didn’t bring the breakfast buffet home with us from Israel. My body doesn’t understand why I am devouring Hebrew consonants instead of thick, soft pita. It is confused about why I am wrestling with vowels instead of squeezing juice from a pomegranate.
But I understand.
It is because I loved Israel, and its language was the taste I could bring home with me.
I will still be nice to me, taking my processors back off to rest my head before the long day, and making date toast for me and mom in a little while.
But this early hour, the only one in my day that is quiet, and my favorite sacred hour of study, this one is just for me and my digital ears – and we are going to learn the sounds of Hebrew, no matter how long it takes.
Mostly because the pomegranates are that good.