Skate’s body resonated. Whenever music played, her whole body vibrated like a giant organic subwoofer. When a car drove by, buzzing a bass line for the whole neighborhood to enjoy, Skate would rattle more than their rear windshield. The former was convenient in that I didn’t really have to buy a subwoofer for my stereo system. The latter was inconvenient when we would be spooning late at night and someone would drive by. My fillings would practically come loose.
I asked Skate when this started and she said sometime during early puberty. Like many chronic diseases, it came on slowly, imperceptively at first. A ringing in the ears, a strange vibration in the jaw. No clues on what it was linked to. It was when her entire chest cavity started to become sonorous and loud car stereo systems became en vogue in the early ’90s that Skate and her family began to put it together. A string of doctor visits, two years’ worth all told, ensued. None had any ideas, only one even ventured to coin this unprecedented condition. One would think the academics would have been jumping on the chance to name something after themselves, but in the end it was determined that Skate’s “acoustically resonant” body was not doing her harm or causing her pain, so with no solutions, the medical field sent her on her way, advising her to stay away from rock concerts.
So she lived for a few years, enjoying the library, the only person in her peer group to own no records, leaving parties early, casually turning the stereo down at friends’ houses. Then her last living grandparent died and it got worse. Then her first boyfriend dumped her for her best friend. Then her parents divorced. By the time we met, she was vibrating almost constantly, like a smoker’s cough. I could tell when a big truck was coming down the road before I could even hear it with my own ears.
I asked her what she was going to do and she said she didn’t know. She enjoys her quiet days in her cubical and subdued nights at home. We live in a well-insulated apartment building with mostly middle-aged residents–no loud music and no blaring-for-the-deaf televisions–but what I meant was, what was she going to do about the rest of life’s pain? Another death in the family, another breakup…hell, enough of the evening news was eventually going to rattle her heart right out of her ribcage. She wouldn’t be able to sit down without the chair gradually moving across the floor.
She seemed to not think about that. Eventually, I stopped thinking about it too and learned to take comfort in the reverberant body curled up next to me at night.
Then my ears started ringing and my jaw trembling. And I stopped watching the news.