A year since radiation and chemo comes and goes. Garbled speech remains. It’s better. It’s just not normal. Curiosity, or nosiness, gets the best of some and they make inquiries.
“Are you wearing Invisalign?”
“Were you once deaf?”
“Um, no?” comes my quizzical answer.
“Oh, ‘cuz it sounds like you were once deaf and now you have a cochlear implant.”
“Why do you talk like that?”
Instead of, “Bite my big fat ass,” I reply that garbled speech is the result of radiation burning the muscles and tongue that control speech and it takes a long time to heal.
“Do you do speech therapy?”
“Does it help?”
Most amusing? These are strangers. My head often shakes of its own accord and I get a tiny glimpse of what it must be like to travel through life with some sort of handicap and a population of busybodies feeling as if commentary is a must.
I gripe about it to the cancer doctor, whining in my first world problem voice: When will it stop? When will my speech go back to normal? When will my words keep up with my mind? And when, oh when, will I be able to visit the dive country bar and sing into a beer bottle for the amusement of all?
He’s lost on the dive country bar but does say, “In addition to therapy, why don’t you sing?” Easier said than done. Words come too slowly to sing along and slurry speech doesn’t help a girl belt along with Adele. Dammit.
The key, he says, is song that we know so well, lyrics come without thought. Think backward to songs from teen years; songs that come back even if we haven’t heard them for years. What songs do we know that well? For those of us of a certain age, it’s back to the eighties since there has been no music since then. Excepting Adele of course.
Poetry put to beats paired with little vocal talent falls short of the rock ballads that buoyed out hearts as teenagers. It’s the reason my children know Guns ‘n Roses and my daughters rendition of Love Shack, complete with hairbrushes, is entertainment not to be missed. For me, Meat Loaf spelled teen angst. I deposit the disc into the player on the way to work. Lost in my youth and memories of beach parties, staying out all night and various crushes flood the memory and I realize I’m singing. With no thought. Then louder and more clearly. And then drumming on my custom steering wheel drum. At a stoplight the gentleman next to me is unable to keep his staring a secret. I wave and speed off, ala my seventeen-year-old self.
You could say like a bat out of hell, taking the words right out of my mouth with no need for the dashboard light. I greet a client and, alas, speech is slurry. But I’m smiling and I sang on the way to work. Two out of three ain’t bad.