It wasn’t even One PM yet and more than one person had already asked: “Are you all right?”
It wasn’t what you’re thinking.
I assured everyone that I was fine. In fact, I was better than fine, because at 12:30 I passed the four hour mark without having had one tic since 8:30 that morning. Four hours. Every additional second without tics for the rest of the day would be brand new territory. So yes, I was all right.
And everyone nodded and moved on. A couple of them said, “If you need to talk, I hope you know that you can talk to me.”
Finally I asked why they thought something was wrong with me.
“You’ve been so quiet,” someone told me. “You’re usually such a talker. You’re such a light-hearted person that it’s kind of weird to sit here and see you sitting there in silence.”
Sitting there in silence. Sitting there in silence. I said the words to myself over and over and over. I am sitting here in silence. I am sitting here in silence.
Four hours became five.
I am sitting here in silence.
Five hours became six. “Are you sure you’re all right, Josh?”
I nodded because that was enough. I didn’t have to talk. I didn’t need to fill the air with words to distract myself or shut down tics. I didn’t need to be the life of the party. I didn’t have to be the most interesting person in the room. Suddenly I had what I had always wanted:
To be anonymous. And that’s when I realized the enormity of the occasion. I have never been permitted to blend in, and suddenly I could–or, I could blend in as well as any other giant.
I looked around the library at all the people reading, playing on the computer, wasting time, whatever–none of them had any idea I was in the room.
I am sitting here in silence.
Disclaimers and misdirects
The last twenty-something years of my life have been one huge disclaimer, one massive misdirect. “Yes, I have Tourette’s, but see how funny I am?” “Yes, I have Tourette’s, but wow, I’m so well-spoken, aren’t I?” “Yes, I have Tourette’s, but have I ever played the guitar for you?” “Yes, I have Tourette’s, but have I ever told you about the time…”
I was always the most interesting person in the room, largely out of self-defense. I won’t lie–it’s fun to be interesting. It’s fun to know that getting through another day in my life means ten more stories were born.
But now–there was no reason to divert conversations into safer waters. There was no reason to start conversations at all if I didn’t want to.
I looked at myself in the mirror during a break and wondered who I was. What will you do when you no longer identify yourself with Tourette’s Syndrome?
When I left work, six hours had become ten. I had passed an entire shift and only spoke when I was asked a question. I didn’t know what to do. Should I celebrate? Should I go make some noise? Was it time for a party?
I thought it was, so I drove home a little too fast. But when I got there and saw Max, I decided to just spend the evening on the floor playing with him. He started having tics a couple of weeks ago. He’s only two, which is way, way earlier than I started having tics.
I don’t know what will happen with him yet. Maybe I’m wrong and I’m not seeing the tics at all.
Regardless, as we wrestled and I flew him through the air and he tried to lift the 106 lb kettlebell that sits on our hearth, all I could think of was this paraphrased quote from my beloved Kurt Vonnegut:
Nothing hurt and everything was beautiful.
And ten hours had become fourteen by the time I turned out the light.
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