The first thing I did when I woke up was check on Pumpkin, remembering how strangely quiet last night had been. Normally there’s chewing, rustling, food-munching noises, her water bottle clicking, the swishing noise of Emily’s old rat wheel and the pitter-patter of tiny feet as she potters and stomps around all night, doing hamster things. Rustling her food bag and gently tugging on the edge of her nest normally wakes her, but there was no response.
Snuggled up in her nest, under layers of kitchen paper, Pumpkin looked like she was asleep. But she felt cold and stiff. In case she was hibernating, I wrapped her in the bottom of my t-shirt, but she didn’t stir. She was stiff and didn’t warm up, still frozen curled up in an adorable sleeping position when I turned her over. My hands glowed bright turquoise, but she only had the faintest traces of grey and yellow. Her colours were gone.
There was a little blood on her nose and a spot on her fur, so she must have had a bleed and died in her sleep. I’m happy that she had a good life and a peaceful death in her sleep and never had to see a vet. I’m sad for myself because I’ll miss her. I miss her fluffy warmness and feeding her with her front paws resting on one of my fingers while she picked around whatever treats were on my hand, fussily choosing her favourites and pouching them.
I grabbed my backpack, a box of cupcakes I made last night for tea-break at Lip Reading, my BLS notes for college tonight, and my iPod (stuck halfway through the appropriately sad song, “I’m Lost Without You”), then headed for the bus stop.
I’m glad it was only the mock BSL exam tonight, because if it was the real thing, I would have failed. I sat in front of my teacher, brain going blank apart from Pumpkin. She tried to prompt me, but it didn’t work.
On the train home I met some old friends from school. One of them was getting off at my stop. I mentioned my BSL and Lip Reading classes when she asked what I was doing next year and told her (kind of nervously) about my hearing. I explained how I didn’t really hear anything people said at school. Most of the time I just smiled and nodded. If she thought that I was quiet, confused or distant, that was why.
What she said was that it must have been really hard for me. How did I cope at school? She would have cried. This put things in a new perspective for me.
Every time I tell someone about my APD, I get a little less nervous about it. Generally, people are accepting, instead of wanting to avoid me. They suddenly know what was different about me. I didn’t talk to them not because I was rude, quiet or just uninterested in them. I couldn’t hear properly. Now that I can hear properly after Johansen IAS therapy, what a conversation we can have! I finally had a chance to talk to her, and she wanted to talk to me too.
I got to know her better in ten minutes of chatting as we walked home, than in two whole years of school. For the first time ever, we had a proper conversation. I feel like I’ve made a great new friend, despite officially already knowing her.
With my new hearing, it sometimes feels like I’m doing everything for the first time again. It’s not as if I’ve been given a second chance at life, it’s more like I’ve been given an entire second life. And this time, the odds aren’t so stacked against me.
Back home I adjusted the ladder in Pumpkin’s cage which she always pulls to one side, then remembered that she wouldn’t have a problem getting down it anymore.
I couldn’t sleep for ages because it was so quiet without her. For over two years I’ve gone to sleep with a cacophony of busy hamster noises in my room. Tonight I realised how silent it was. I got Emily (the first hamster) just as my hearing was starting to improve. All the loud sounds that I used to hear (the fridge downstairs, creaks, electric squeaks, my family’s breathing, the pipes, distant traffic as loud as planes, sometimes even my heartbeat) before noisy hamsters drowned them out, were no longer there. It was weird. And kind of peaceful.