Truly began the day by winking at her friend’s fiancé. She shrugged when her professor asked if she was paying attention. She rolled her eyes when her friend told her a story. She grunted as she tried to eat. She swore at people as she walked to class. She clapped when someone in front of her tripped. She ended the day willingly crying in her dorm room. It was another day of poor timing and Tourette’s Syndrome Tics. Each day was a surprise. What
involuntary muscle movement would happen next?
“No, no, no!” she shouted, her hand over her mouth. She tried hard to keep the words from coming, but they forced themselves out. She then started clapping so hard the palms of her small hands tingled and burned. She opened her palms, and two tears landed on her now red skin. She then started blinking violently, making her world like a strobe light. She leaned back on her bed and clutched her tan forehead. She tried hard not to get dizzy. Her eyes opened and closed. Opened and closed. Dark to light. Dark to light. Like her thoughts that were often crueler than even the worst of Tics.
“What if they get worse?”
“What if I give this to my children?”
“What if I won’t be able to function alone?”
“What if I will have to give up my dreams?”
She sunk down on her bed, feeling her thoughts would soon smother her like thick smoke. They twirled and meshed with one another making her mind feel cloudy from the fog. It was suffocating. Thinking made Tics worse. And Tics made thinking worse. It was a draining cycle. She crawled under her covers, fighting against words her body wanted to shout. Instead, she made little noises, pressing her pink lips together as hard as she could. She pulled her blanket over her long dark hair. She couldn’t fight it any longer. “No, no, no!” she shouted. Around that time the alarm on her phone went off. An alarm was set to remind her to practice for an audition. Her college was holding a play in the spring. She moaned and buried herself further under her covers. She let her alarm go off and tried hard to tune it out. Tics was especially angry with her
Truly and Tourette’s Tics had a long messy history. They first met when Truly was in the second grade. At first, she didn’t know who to blame when her little hand shook as she tried to hold her crayon. She didn’t know who to be angry with when she was bullied for unwillingly making funny faces. She was unsure who to despise when she was kicked out of her elementary school play for involuntarily saying dirty words. No one in her life had ever met Tics. Tics only showed himself to Truly. After a long year of Tics harassing Truly in secret, her parents finally had her tested. Her doctor knew exactly who Tics was and sadly did not know how to make him leave. There were ways to pacify him, but he always returned. After that Truly swore to forever loathe Tics and she considered him her arch-nemesis. She vowed to never get along with him. A truce would result in closed curtains.
“No,” Truly said to herself, “Tics may be stubborn, but so am I.” She got out of bed and picked her script off her desk. She opened her script to a monologue by the lead character. She stood in front of her full-length mirror. She glared into her own hazel eyes with a deep determination.
“Grief?” she read from the script, “You would like that, I’m sure. No, I know you killed him. I broke your heart, so you felt like you had to break mine. You couldn’t stand seeing me happy…” Truly’s words fizzled out as she watched her free hand shake. She tried hard to ignore Tics and continued reading. “It made you sick to see me free of your vicious rule over my life. You loathed watching me alive and in love. You killed him so I would be as miserable as you. Guess what? I…” Truly was distracted by her free hand, which was now snapping loudly. She shook her head, and once again tried to ignore Tics. She continued reading. “I will not let you make me miserable. You may have taken my youth, you may have taken my Robert, but you will not take away my life. I will live and I will live joyful– Ugh!” Now she was blinking again. She searched for her bed frame with her hand, and when she found it, she pulled herself over to her mattress. She sat down and buried her head in her hands. “No, no, no” she shouted. She fought tears. After a moment of self-pity, she stiffened her lip and sat up. “This will pass,” Truly assured herself. Tics came in waves. The waters always eventually stilled. There were some days that she had hardly any visits from Tics at all. Tics was just angry that day, and retaliation would only make him worse. Giving in would only give him what he wanted. Ignoring him was her best tactic.
Truly spent the rest of the evening fighting to get through the monologue. After many hours of trying, failing, and trying again, Truly had one good read through. It wasn’t just good, it was great. She may have had a rough start to her day, but it ended well. She had success. She was determined to not only make it into her school’s play but to also take the lead.
Truly had gone through her entire day with only a few hand twitches. It was a good day. She woke up determined to be happy and succeeded. She also had spoken up in her class, (something she rarely did), and was praised for her insightful input. After her class was let out early, she walked out with two of her close friends.
“Truly, I wish you would speak up more often,” whispered her curly-headed friend, Tiara. They had to be quiet. Many of the classes were still in session. “You have such great things to say,” she continued.
“Really?” Truly asked softly. She tucked a long strand of her hair behind her ear.
“She’s right! You are so smart,” added her friend Andy. She was short and freckly.
“You guys are too nice,” Truly whispered.
“It’s true! You need to have confidence in yourself.”
“Shit!” Truly screamed. She slammed her hand over her mouth. The word came out of nowhere. She looked at her friends mortified. They had known her long enough to know about Tics.
“It’s ok!” Tiara assured her, still whispering.
“Don’t worry, let’s just get you out of here,” Andy added.
“Fuck! Fuck! Shiiiiit! Fuck!” Truly shouted. She hid her face with her hands. “I’m so sorry,” she whispered. Her friends grabbed her arms and led her down the hall.
“We aren’t upset!” Tiara whispered, “We just don’t want anyone to get the wrong…”
“Young Lady!” An older man said. He was a professor. He marched over to the girls.
“Were you the one who was screaming profanities right next to my classroom?”
“She was, but we can explain,” Tiara said.
“What is there to explain? That is completely disrespectful! How dare you interrupt my class by shouting such foul words!”
“Chill out! She has Tourette’s” Andy said, her face getting hot.
“I happen to have my doctorate. I know full well what Tourette’s syndrome is. A dirty mouth is not a disease, it is a choice. It is one thing to interrupt my class by shouting profanity, but it is another to make excuses for it.”
“Shiiiiit” Truly said through gritted teeth. She had fought with all she was to hold back Tics and lost.
“Excuse me?” the professor asked.
“Please sir, Truly really does have a problem,” Tiara explained, “She can’t help it.”
“Well, maybe I can’t help reporting Truly to the dean.” He stormed back to his classroom, slamming the door behind him. Truly broke down.
“What a jerk!” Andy said, her face red and knuckles tight.
“Ignore him Truly, he won’t actually report you,” Tiara assured her. Truly leaned up against the wall and buried her head in her hands.
“No one ever sees Truly,” Truly said softly, “All they see is Tics.” She rushed down the hall and out the door.
Truly sat on her bed and watched both her hands shake violently. It had been a week since the incident with the professor. Unfortunately, he did report Truly to the Dean. Thankfully, the Dean knew about Truly’s rare form of the syndrome, called Coprolalia, and let Truly go with no punishment. Tics was angry that week but Truly fought against him. She refused to let Tics keep her from living her life. She watched her hands with her eyebrows low. The moment they stopped, she would pick up her script and start practicing. When her hands stopped, one finger started to wiggle. It looked as if she was coyly urging someone forward. Tics was toying with her now. He beckoned her to follow him down into submission. Down into surrender. Down into grief. Truly got up, snatched her script off her desk, and stood in front of her mirror. She read,
“Grief? You would like that, I am sure. No, I know you killed him. I broke your heart, so you felt like you had to break mine. You couldn’t stand seeing me happy. It made you sick to see me free of your vicious rule over my life.” Truly’s eyes tightened shut and she shouted, “No, no, no! She covered her mouth with her hand and shouted once again, “No, no, no.” When Tics was satisfied, Truly pressed on. She read, “You loathed watching me alive and in love. You killed him so I would be as miserable as you. Guess what? I will not let you make me miserable…” Truly covered her mouth, and shouted, “No, no, no!” She then started blinking and shouting at the same time. Truly searched for her script with her hand. When she spotted it, through incessant blinking, she picked it up and threw it away. She then struggled to make it over to her bed. When she sat down, her body stilled. Then came the thoughts.
“How is this ever going to work? I can’t even get through a monologue without shouting like a madwoman and blinking like an idiot. How am I going to make it through an entire play? Even if I were talented, what director would want to work around me? How can I ever hide Tics for that long?” She started to clap loudly.
“Why Tics?” she asked audibly, “Why do you hate acting so much? I can go through an entire day without you messing with me once. Then I go to practice for this audition and you bombard me. What is so wrong with my dream?” Her eyes clenched shut and she shouted, “No, no, no!” She stopped and chuckled. “I know what it is,” she said. “You can’t stand the thought of people seeing Truly. You are selfish Tics. You want to be seen.” Her hands started shaking. As she watched, an idea came. She now knew how she was going to make it through her audition, and even through the entire play. “You can have it Tics,” She said with a smile. “If you want my spotlight, you can have it.”
Truly had a blinking spell earlier that morning. Aside from that, she was having a great day. Several days had passed since she had her idea, and since then she had practiced a lot. She could now recite her lines back to front if she were asked to. She had her part down and she was prepared for any attack from Tics. She sat in the auditorium with hundreds of other students waiting to audition. At first, this did not faze Truly, but as she watched the other talented students perform their scenes, she started to doubt herself.
“What am I doing?” she thought. “I don’t belong here.” She looked at the students around her. They all were so still and normal. “How can I compete?” She thought. “I’m not normal.” Truly looked down at her shaking hand. She hid it underneath her cardigan.
“I may be able to hide Tics now, but what about when I am up there?” Truly looked up and watched a beautiful brunette girl read for the lead role, Stella. She was excellent. She read with passion and confidence. She moved across the stage with ease. Her hands, lips, and eyes moved perfectly. Each movement was planned, and every word was voluntary. She had an advantage Truly did not. She did not have Tics.
After watching several more excellent auditions for the role of Stella, Truly’s stomach ached. She wondered if she should go back to her dorm and crawl under the covers. Right as she was about to leave, the director announced,
“Next we have, Truly Johns.”
Truly cringed. She got up from her seat and walked up to the stage. As she walked, she held one of her shaking hands. When she arrived under the spotlight, she looked out at the auditorium filled with silhouettes. She could feel Tics was near, waiting to embarrass her. She clenched her fists, ready for the coming fight. Below her was the old director. The director had her large legs crossed and was holding a clipboard between her long red fingernails. The director held her pale nose high and asked,
“What part will you be auditioning for?”
“I will be auditioning for the lead role of Stella,” Truly said.
“Alright. Anthony will read Titus’s lines.”
Truly looked over at the young man standing beside her. He was flipping through the script, trying to find the right scene. He had dark hair and a heavy brow. He was strong, but not too strong. As she was studying him, something strange happened. For the first time, she could see him.
“In this scene, Stella and Titus are at Robert’s graveside funeral,” The director explained.
“There are many people at Robert’s funeral. At this point, Robert’s cause of death is still uncertain. Truly, you may begin when you are ready.” Truly nodded.
“Are you ready Tics?” she thought. “Now is your time to shine.” She took a deep breath and began. “What did I ever do to you Titus?” she asked softly, “Please I want to know.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” said the young man.
“Don’t act oblivious,” she said, her voice rising, “I know you despise me. I want to know why. Why me?”
“Honestly, I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. Truly could feel Tics messing with her throat. He was about to force her to shout. Truly was prepared for this, and she let Tics show himself.
“No, no, no!” she shouted. She then went on, “Don’t you dare lie to me.” Tics started shaking her hands, but she played it off. She made her voice shake to match the involuntary trembling. She made the trembling look natural. “Why me? Why murder my Robert?”
“You need to calm down. Grief is getting to your head,” he said.
“Grief?” she asked, “You would like that, I’m sure.” Tics forced Truly to snap her fingers, but she turned her snapping into an accusing point. “I know you killed him,” she continued, “I broke your heart, so you felt like you had to break mine. You couldn’t stand seeing me happy. It made you sick to see me free of your vicious rule over my life. You loathed watching me alive and in love. You killed him so I would be as miserable as you. Guess what?” Tics was growing angry. He forced Truly to start blinking. Truly planted her feet and fought tears. The blinking sorrowed her, but she used her sorrow to her advantage. She turned pain into power. She made her blinking look intentional. “I refuse,” she said, with a weak voice. “I will not let you make me miserable. You may have taken my youth, you may have taken my Robert, but you won’t take away my life.”
Tics forced Truly to scowl. This forced scowl made her angry. She gave this deep-rooted anger to her character. “I will live, and I will live joyfully,” she said. “You may have knocked me down for a moment, but I will rise again. You may attack me my entire life, but I will prevail! Your due justice will come from my joy. Your cruelties only drive me further. Your murder makes me feel more alive. My revenge will be my joyous song.” Truly paused and glared into the eyes of the man in front of her. She lifted her chin and looked down on him. She had hot tears streamed down her cheeks. Tears of resentment and determination. The young man looked almost startled by her intensity.
“This won’t kill me, Tics. In fact, this has only given me new life.” Truly stopped and nodded at the director. Suddenly the auditorium burst into clapping. Tics made Truly clap as well, but she quickly forced herself to stop.
“Well done Truly,” the director said, with a small smile, “You will be a tough competitor for this role.” This was the only compliment the director had given the entire day. Truly had never been so happy. “The only error I noticed was in your final line. You said the name “Tics” instead of “Titus.” Who is Tics?” Truly smiled and held her head high.
“Tics is someone who used to rule over me, but not anymore.”