By Makella Brems
“Do you remember this, Kella?”
It is a picture of me, well, not me as I am now, but the littler version of me, passed out in a stroller with my tiny block-shaped shoes dangling over the side. I have spitty pink lollipop residue dried all over my face. I think, “Disneyland 1, Makella 0.”
I don’t remember it. I do remember how I kept repeating the “Dih” sound after hearing the word Disneyland for the first time. I sat on the couch in our apartment at Paradise Lakes going, “Dih,” “Dih,” Dih!” Each one got me closer to the perfect “Dih” sound I needed to make. The apartment buildings at Paradise Lakes were all painted white with blue awnings and there were pools in every complex. I found a glassy pebble, a toy soldier, and another child’s poo at the bottom of those pools. They’ve since repainted the complex a sluggish taupe color.
After the “Dih” sound, it was a “Hmmm.” Not a contemplative, “hmm.” More like an old-fashioned buggy car, “HMMM!” It would never ever come out just right. I would get so close, though, so close! I would HMMM, and HM, and HUHMMMMM and HMM HMM, ugh, HMMM!!! HMM was so HMMMM close! I hated it, and I needed it. It was the feeling of getting your gums flossed by a stern hygienist. They bleed and ache, but it feels so good, too.
I met with a doctor, but all I remember from that was the toy in the waiting room with the wooden pieces that had holes in the center and a looping wire structure going through them. I moved the little geometric pieces up and over a precipice in the wire and they clacked down one on top of the other at the bottom. The clacking noise, or rather the small vibrations that each clack sent into my head and chest gave the same sensation that the HMM did. I contained my satisfaction with the toy so the other children waiting wouldn’t want to leave their toys to play with it instead.
The doctor tried to fix the problem in the only way doctors seem to know how. My mom walked in on me slumped against my bedroom wall, staring euphorically at the blades of my fan going round and round. I did not need to HMM anymore, and I did not need to talk, or laugh, or move either. It was a quiet time. Rousseau described man in the state of nature as man at his happiest. Back then man didn’t compare himself to anyone else because he had no concept of self. He slept when tired, ate when hungry, and mated when, well, probably whenever he could. The medicine curdled my existence so that my self was my senses.
I may have been happy, but I didn’t have the level of consciousness needed to make such a determination. Rousseau made that determination for his nature-man, but a hedonist is not my mother and so she tossed the little white pills. She replaced them with a fat white binder of all the articles tucked away in the unfound corners of the internet relaying the homeopathic/dietary/supplementary/meditational/allergenic remedies attempted by other desperate, stranded parents.
Next came the violent inhalation. I would suck in air so fast and hard that the dust particles coming in with the oxygen would pierce my throat. It was always the worst at night. I would hold the tics in all day at school and then when I got home, the floodgates would burst open. I especially hated the inhalation because I would get lightheaded so quickly. I remember how bright the light in my room would become, and I would slam my face and my fists into my pillow.
“Maybe it’s the dairy? I don’t know. We could try that. I bought some soymilk today. Cutting out sugar definitely seems to be helping.”
“Let’s try it. And the food coloring, too. When she came home from Bella’s birthday party it was worse than I’ve seen in a long time, and she ate the cake with all that blue frosting on it, remember?”
I adored my friends’ snack pantries. They had Ho Hos and Coco Puffs and Fruit by the Foot. They had green ketchup and gold-wrapped caramel candies. They had cereal bowls with built-in straws to slurp up every last bit of the sugary milk concoction left at the bottom. I knew better, and I paid for it later, but it always seemed so worth it in the moment.
Since the first “Dih,” I’ve had the HMM, the inhalation, the head flick, the stomach tighten—that one gave me some real gastrointestinal trouble. I just called it poop problems, but a doctor can’t very well diagnose you with “poop problems” and expect to get paid. I’ve had the jaw pop, the throat clear, the universally classic eye blink, the fist clench, the shoulder shrug, and then the shoulder jerk. I’m currently experiencing a tic medley of the shoulder tighten, the gag, and what I can only refer to as the crazy eyes. To many people’s disappointment, I have never had the “FUCK” or the “PISS IN MY ASS” that made one man YouTube famous.
In high school, my friends and I would come up with these jokes that made me laugh and laugh. They would all start with people with the swearing kind of Tourette’s (Coprolalia) in high-stress situations because that’s what seems to make most people’s tics the worst most of the time.
“Or you could have, you could have a doctor in a delivery room. The lady would be pushing so hard, like ‘EHHHH EHHHHH,’ and her husband would be holding her hand while the doctor says, ‘Almost there! Keep pushing!’ and then all of the sudden he goes, ‘SHIT…FUCK! SHIT!’ and the mom is freaking out, going, ‘What? What?? Doctor what is it?!’ and he goes, ‘SHIT BALLS! DEAD BABIES!’”
“Or like, this guy could be asking a girl on a date and he goes, ‘Hey Janelle, so uh, I was wondering if like, maybe on Saturday night you might want to go FUUUCK!’”
We would use this raspy, airless voice that we had to push really hard to get out whenever we screamed the punch line, and then immediately explode into hysterical laughter.
Makella is a senior at Claremont McKenna College in California where she studies government and foreign affairs. She was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona. Makella loves longboarding, whiskey, and the Alabama Shakes.