by Nancy Natalicio

 Sometimes I hear voices.

 Oh, I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking, Uh-oh.

Uh-oh is right. 

They come at all hours of the day and night.  I call them the Singers because that’s less scary.

Sometimes they sing the words I’m thinking--over and over and over, off-key.  After a while I don’t know what I think.

Sometimes the voices are men, deep voices singing loud that I’m no good.

Sometimes the voices are women, soft voices singing like an old warped tape.  They sing that I’m stupid and fat and no one will ever love me.

When I get mad at the women, they hide behind the men.  The men protect them.

The Singers used to be on TV. 

They were on the radio, too. 

They were even in the phone, if I picked it up. 

I had everything taken out of my apartment.  But the Singers are still there.

My caseworker told me once to kick them when they start singing.  She said if they stop singing and say “Ouch!”  they’re real.  I don’t know if that works, but it’s funny.

My doctor says they’re not real.  He says they’re part of me, that they’re just singing my song.  But he doesn’t know them.

They’ve known me a lot longer than he has.

Don’t get me wrong.  My doctor’s nice.  He wants to understand.  And the pills he gives me help.  But he’d have to hear them himself  to know what I’m talking about.

A guy I know, Rick, hears them, too, but his are different.  He only hears one.  His talks about dirty things, or about God and the devil.  Rick never makes fun of me because he knows.

Rick doesn’t like the word “crazy.”  When he hears someone from the real world say something like,  “My mom is driving me crazy!” he gets mad and says, “NO.  Not crazy.”   I like that about Rick.  I also like it that he gives me cigarettes when he has extras.

I’ve always known I was different.  In school I didn’t make good grades, and my teachers said, “Needs to try harder.”  I did try sometimes, but I knew something was wrong. 

It wasn’t till I was older that I found out it was the voices.  By that time it was too late for grades or a job or a girlfriend.   It wasn’t too late for sex, though.  I’m still having problems with that.  I think about it all the time.  Especially when I’m with my caseworker.

She tells me to keep taking my pills.   

She says when the Singers start, I can play the harmonica or sing loud to drown them out. 

She says I can take long slow breaths. 

She says I can start at the top of my head and make every part of my body tight, then loose, then tight again, all the way to my feet.  That helps me relax.

But I think I would relax more if she’d hold my hand.

She does really nice things like help me shop with coupons and take me for cheap haircuts.  

She plays cards with me at the park, and waits for me at the doctor’s office. 

Sometimes we get a hamburger with fries and a strawberry shake, even though she says that stuff is nothing but fat.  She’s a little juicy, so she likes it, too.  Juicy—that’s her word.

Sometimes she takes me to a movie—not the scary ones, just the happy ones.  I pretend I have my arm around her and kiss her.  She doesn’t know.

But you know what I like best of all?  I like it best when we just joke around.  She thinks I’m funny, in a nice way.   I feel almost normal. 

And the Singers stop for a while.


© Unlimited Learning 2002