I might have been twelve, I don’t remember. The warm surge of blood, the beating of my heart, and the adrenalin coursing through my system as I felt the release; it all felt so satisfying. I didn’t understand why, but I certainly wasn’t going to ask anyone for answers. It just happened one day. It felt good, so I kept doing it.
My hands have always been fast. I remember the day we measured reaction times in science class. Each lab partnership was given a specially marked ruler. The test was simple; your lab partner held the ruler in the air, while you waited for them to drop it without warning. The line pinched by your thumb and forefinger denoted your reaction time. I had the shortest. My lab partner was a mammoth-sized football player. He was impressed with my speed and spent the bulk of the lab time talking about how fast I was. He shook his head in disbelief as he made me catch the ruler over and over again. I felt special, but in a good way. I had never been the best at anything other than acting like a punching bag. Still, I didn’t share my newfound habit with him. That would have been weird.
That habit has since divided into three separate manifestations. I have never demonstrated any of them in full for anyone. Elizabeth has heard the sounds, caught hints at times, but I am not sure that she has ever witnessed the complete process. It’s not that I am embarrassed to show her, she knows everything about me. I just don’t show anyone. My habits are like cats humping; we all know it happens, but has anyone ever seen it?
Of the three, my bathroom habit is the most vulnerable to detection. Keeping secrets in public bathrooms is tough. I used to wait until I was alone, or go into a stall for privacy. Over time I have devised a subtle way of making it happen without detection. I can stand at a urinal and do it with confidence, even if there is no divider, like in the bathrooms at Fenway Park.
But I did get caught recently. I was alone in the restroom at a client’s office. Those are dangerous moments. When alone I tend to take it up a notch, making the most of the solitude. It’s quite a display. On this particular morning the owner of the company walked in and I couldn’t stop fast enough. He paused, his mouth hanging open. My hands and eyes didn’t have anywhere to hide. An awkward moment passed between us before he farted and walked into the stall to crap. I zipped up and flushed, my face warm with embarrassment. I felt better when he started to laugh. I guess everyone has his or her strange and unexplained habits of comfort. At least mine don’t release clouds of noxious gas.
They release clouds of tension.
Behold! My ticks...
1. When taking a piss, I hold out my hand (or hands, it depends) and twitch my wrists. My fore, third, and pinky fingers are extended. My second finger is curled into my palm. The rapid twitching makes my ring finger slap against my thumb at a high rate of speed. It sounds like a plush machine gun. If I am alone, my arm makes wide circles over my head. The veins in my temples expand and my eyes open wide. A second or two more and it ends. The rush recedes. Flush, wash, and exit, a paper towel in hand for opening the door.
2. In the shower, my hands slide-clap against each other. It starts with my arms straight and low, my wrist pressed together. They slide back and forth against each other, gaining speed. My fingers slap against my palms until everything is numb. The sensation flows up to my shoulders and into my back, and then recedes back down my arms and out the tips of my fingers. The tension slips down the drain with the soapy water.
3. While pulling on my pants, I shake them. It starts as I slide the first leg in and continues until it is over, typically when my pants are up to my knees. Sometimes I am still shaking them as I button up the fly. It depends. Muscles in my neck flex, and from them bursts a sudden rapture. It flows down my back and into my legs.
I have noticed an increase in the intensity of these moments since Elizabeth and I found my little brother Jared dead from suicide in the woods. I still don’t think that it’s OCD. No one will suffer if I skip it. Harm will not seek me out should I stop mid-cycle.