Paper. Hate it. Hate the way it sounds, paper on paper, and the way it feels under my skin. Hate the sound of paper tearing, hate the dry whisper of a turned page. Hate that other things sound like this. Take off my shirt and, cloth on skin, there’s the paper sound. Touch my hair and there’s the paper sound. Breathe in and there’s the paper sound. I’m not making this up.
It started early in life, though I don’t remember exactly when. In school, the sound of my hand moving across paper was bothersome, but tolerable. I found that if I kept my nails long, it helped. I wouldn’t explain why I kept my nails long, though. I can’t explain why it still helps (lessens touch sensitivity, I presume). I hated the sound of pencil against paper, I hated the sound of the worn-to-nothing end of a pencil, the eraser end, rubbing its nub and tin against the paper (I shudder). At its worst, in my pre-teens, it affected my dental hygiene – brushing my teeth created a paper sound throughout my entire skull. Horrible. I also couldn’t stand the feel and sound of nylon on nylon. Or snowsuits. Pillowcases. Maybe I worried that one day I wouldn’t be able to touch anything at all?
And then it went away, mostly. And I forgot about it, mostly. Thirty years dormant. And then two summers ago, while tearing a sheet of parchment paper, it was back: shivers up my spine, hair standing on end. Why? Did stress trigger it? What part of my brain was reactivated? And why is there a part of my brain that makes the world sound like its being channelled through dry, paper tubes? (“That’s a really crazy description; don’t tell people that,” R. told me when I tried to describe it.)
Since the Parchment Terror it’s expanded, to toasted or old bread, to feet on carpet, and to nearly all forms of clothing (except microfibre and silk). Some days it seems every other thing has this dry, shivery sound, and I can’t see any evolutionary reason for this. Paper cuts just aren’t that deadly. (Yes, it falls under some kind of hypersensitivity disorder. Surely there are others out there.)
So, that’s the irony. I’m a writer and editor who hates paper, who is surrounded by paper, who’s had constant paper contact his entire life (you’d have expected me go into aquaculture and something similarly moist). But I’m a writer who’s never had much of a paper fetish, obviously, or a sharpie or pen collection.
Yet, somehow (praise the angels and their shivery wings), I still love the feel of books, and don’t own a Kobo or Kindle.
That says something.
PS – But I love the feel of polymers. The new plastic money? Awesome.