I don’t check my pulse; I don’t check my blood pressure. I sit with a tight chest, constricted lungs, rigid, like they might crack if I breathe too deeply. I woke today with a headache. I went to bed last night with the same headache. I made no progress over night. I worried when I couldn’t reach my father. I fell out of my work-groove after lunch, dreamed about the end of the day.

I walked home after work. I skipped my usual Spotify rock concert to listen to a podcast: Christ and the Buddha walk into a Bar. It wasn’t as funny as it sounds. Too intellectual, I couldn’t retain the premise, I judged myself stupid.

I feel better spewing this venom. Like I drank an Ipecac cocktail, I’m purging the poison.

Hrurh, hrurh, hrurh. It started with my tics. The grunting sounds I make in my throat. They come from Tourette Syndrome, or maybe autism—if I have autism. Maybe neither, possibly just a bad habit. Possibly, I’m weird.

I blame Angie.  She stuck Zombie by the Cranberries in my head just before I ran my park loop. Ironically, the chorus goes like this: What’s in your head? What’s in your head? What’s in my head is that fucking song. And in my throat. Hrurh, hrurh, hrurh, hrurh? Hrurh, hrurh, hrurh, hrurh? Zombie, zombie, zombie. I grunted out the tune for the entire run.

This happened yesterday. I’m still ticcy. That’s the term Susan and I use when my Tourette tics are heightened, relentless. The effect from the run never went away. Hrurh, hrurh, hrurh, all day today in my office. I don’t know if people hear this. I never ask. They never say. I catch myself after the fact. Whoa, that was loud.

The run, the headache, the tics, the judgement, the anxiety. No wonder I can’t breathe.

Death lurks in the corners of my world. My stepmother died. My friend Leslie’s father died the next day. Leslie and I dated the summer after I graduated college. Not quite an adult, no longer a kid. Mostly, I tried to cling to my disintegrating carefree life, aware that playtime was over. I drank to forget my stifling eight-to-five weekly grind. I drank to forget my mother limping through her final throes of terminal cancer. Leslie’s father, a huge man—he filled the doorframe with his height and bulk—disapproved of my lack of seriousness. He greeted me with “Hey, here comes the party kid.” That guy scared the hell out of me.

Last night, I finished The Stories of Breece D’J Pancake. In the afterword, his friend and mentor John Casey recounts Pancake’s brilliance as a writer, his sullen stories, his moodiness and suicide—all complete by age twenty-six. In his few years as a writer, Breece established himself as the one to watch, and then snuffed out his own flame. The writing is beautiful. Succinct and sparse, conveying more by omission than inclusion. He reminded me that style matters, that I can do better.

Hours around my wife and son, phone calls with my father and daughter centered me tonight. The urge to tic passed. My breathing evened, and my lungs bend again. I spent most of today brooding on negative thoughts. A few hours writing this helped leech that bile from my belly. My headache disappeared. I’ll wake up fresh and try again tomorrow.  

28 thoughts on “Hrurh

  1. Awww dang! 😢 This is really beautiful, Jeff. So honest and simply stated. It had a strong emotional impact on me without all extra words. Hit me hard. Just…Wow!

    I’m groping for words here. You’ve stunned me into near silence. Again… Wow!

    I’m glad you’re feeling better.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Absolutely sincere. I usually use a lot of laughing emojis when I’m being sarcastic.
        My disjointed comment took me 15 minutes to write. I honestly couldn’t find words.

        Silencing me is not an easy thing to do. Ask anyone who has tried😉😂😂😂

        Liked by 1 person

        • Wow I really like that song and I REALLY like the video. I just added it to my playlist which is pretty amazing. There’s nothing else on my playlist that I haven’t been listening to for more than 20 years.

          I don’t actually ‘listen’ to music when I run. My brain will play a bit of a song over and over. I hear it in my brain as if I was listening through headphones, but the snippet of song is never longer than 10 seconds. It can get pretty tiresome. I have almost no control over what song plays. Last night I ran for 70 minutes, so Fugazi ultimately morphed into Wise Up Sucker by Pop Will Eat Itself. All in all, good, motivating songs for me.

          Liked by 2 people

  2. Wow you sound like a real mess.
    Glad it is improving.
    Must say the thought of your Hrurh sets my teeth on end.
    I would not be able to handle it.
    I WOULD say something.


    • I know, how annoying, right? Before my Tourette tics emerged, I worked in an office next to a woman who cleared her throat several times a minute. It drove me freaking nuts. I’m glad I never said anything. I now know that she was probably more distressed by it than I was.


  3. Oh, Jeff, I’m sorry you’ve been finding things so unbearable and difficult these last few days 😦 . It must be a pretty frightening place to be. The death of your stepmother and your friend’s father, it’s bound to throw you out for a bit although, I know you had other things going on in your mind and body too. It sounds tough and I hear your pain.

    I’m very glad that writing this has given you a little relief, though. Writing is very cathartic, isn’t it? It’s good to know that you were feeling a bit better when you went to bed. I hope it lasts into today. Be kind to yourself, Jeff. You’re worth it. Ellie x


    • Well, I feel a million times better today. I really needed to spew that all out of my system. Sometimes trying to ‘write it out’ only makes me feel worse. last night, it really worked. Unfortunately, whenever something is agitating me, my Tourette symptoms make it painfully evident. I’m about to start reading a book categorized as humor, that should help.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m so glad you’re feeling very much better, Jeff. That’s really good to hear. And I’m glad the writing process helped you deal with your feelings in a positive way. It must be distressing and annoying for you when that sort of stress causes your Tourette Syndrome to be worse. Hope you enjoy your new book too. It sounds like it’s just the thing to cheer you up. Have a lovely day although I haven’t got a clue what time it is where you are. Here, in the UK, it’s 11am (Wednesday) at the moment.


        • HaHa, it’s 6AM here on the east coast. In the non-winter months, we’re five hours behind UK, six in the winter. Blogging has given me a far greater understanding of when people in other countries are sleeping, I even have a bookmark on my computer that shows where the sun is shining world wide at any given moment. — Although I have a friend that lives in London who frequently comments between 2AM and 3AM your time. That throws me off. Re: TS, throughout my life, my mantra has been “everybody’s got something.” TS/OCD isn’t the best something, but it’s certainly not the worst. But when it gets high, it can be pretty disrupting. I’m having trouble picking up that new book. I’ve been having this problem since the pandemic started. I really struggle getting started on a new story.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Thanks for the time and date website, Jeff. That’s very useful. I’m about 40 miles away from London but you’re unlikely to hear from me at that unearthly hour 😉 . I have a sister who lives near Melbourne, Australia and although she’s been out there about 30 years ago, I still have to check the time there every time I call her.

          I like your mantra too – it’s very true. My ‘something’ is that I have severe osteoporosis and am still healing from fracturing my pelvis in six places. I don’t do anything by halves! I’m in less pain now, thankfully. People have worse crosses to bear than I do and I count myself very lucky to have my general health and wellbeing. Life is good (most of the time).

          I, too, have trouble starting a new book. Just can’t seem to get engrossed in them and do sometimes almost give up before I get started. I tend to read non-fiction and autobiographies. I’m pretty hopeless at writing fiction too.


        • I’ve written a total of 3 short stories, and one of them was horribly panned when I sought out feedback. I’d love to be able to write fiction, but I just can’t think of any ideas. The three short stories are all thinly veiled stories about me. I have so many internet author colleagues who write novels, bums me out that I can’t even think of an idea.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m glad you are feeling better. Sounds like you had a really rough go of things. A lot of stuff piled up and I could almost feel your suffocation. I hope things continue to stabilize and you are feeling less weighing you down.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m glad the writing helped you feel better, and that you have supportive family within reach. Those things are the best comforts. Hope things have been better today. Sending
    internet hugs!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Jeff. Hoping you are continuing to feel better. For what it’s worth, I often finds it vaguely comforting when someone near me begins to make noises that some would deem unusual. I guess it’s the pretense of normality that most frightens me. I know that doesn’t minimize the stress on your end. I get very nervous when I feel my own nervous system preparing to out me. I am a huge fan of gallows humor, and so you had me laughing out loud with this section: “What’s in your head? What’s in your head? What’s in my head is that fucking song. ” Now it’s in mine, hah! But in sincerity, thank you for sharing. Cheers to you, Jeff!


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