A Voice On Pause ...

By Charles Alexander

Parting Glances

It happened suddenly. One minute I had my voice. The next minute it was gone. There was no temperature. No nausea. No dizziness. (No more dementia than usual.) Somehow my voice just came and, poof! went. Friends said I sounded like Tallulah Bankhead in a fog.

To say that the loss was disconcerting is an understatement, and most curious. I wasn't shouting Go Blue! I wasn't yelling, Ice that puck! I wasn't ordering some Piston player to dribble into an opposing team's high-hanging basket. I wasn't in the midst of a heated argument in hopes of warming up during annoying, lingering, over-staying, persistent, oh no, not-one-more, winter day.

I can only assume that I had caught whatever droplet drone was going around, misguided this time of year, to bug gay senior citizens.

The only other time I went speechless was when I was five. I had my tonsils removed at the Burt Shirley Hospital, then located on Adams Street across from Detroit's Grand Circus Park. I was encouraged for days afterward by my folks not to talk, and for two pampered weeks I was fed tapioca pudding, ice cream, oat meal, orange juice, Vernor's Ginger Ale. School wasn't a problem. It was summer. The doctor said I was a real trooper.

(I was given ether as an anesthetic, told to repeat I'm sleepy, and had a brief clockwise spinning dream of a boy skating round and round, round and round, on a small ice pond. That I didn't go into figure skating is an hallucinogenic incentive missed. That I do have a thing for Brian Boitano and Patrick Chan isn't. I know a pair of well-defined axels when I see them.)

Affecting a cure of my laryngitis has been vigorous and creative. I've dosed myself non-stop with Burt's Bees Honey drops, Menthol & Eucalyptus Oil lozenges, Cepacol tablets, Fisherman's Friend discs, Altoids mints, vitamin C capsules, Mucinex DM, drunk green tea laced with Chinese mustard sauce. Is it worth it to get my voice back asap? Silence isn't golden.

It's all a temporary loss so I'm told by others who have similar vocal short circuits. Said one, "It's took me a month to get mine back, and I have classes to teach." "My voice came back after six weeks. I didn't talk to anybody if I didn't have to. It was frustrating and scary," confided a karaoke devotee. "My partner, however, seemed unusually happy."

The voice is the outward expression of hearts, minds, life experiences. Each unique voice provides instant recognition - sometimes in the dead of a season's night. Voices linger in our memory. Voices of family, friends, passing personalities who are no more. AIDS voices still so sadly recalled.

Yes, I can "hear" those who were supportive, caring, cautioning, through my own lifetime, and with whom one way or another I had been intimate. They may not be around, but they exist with what's left of me mentally as timbre, tone, tenderness; haunting but fleeting inflection.

Remembrance of times past; times hopefully never to be forgotten. Or, to be silent over.

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