Howler Monkey Blues

Dylan became more and more active and noisy as time went on. Jittery. He started letting out enormous whoops at random, like some sort of demented howler monkey swinging wildly through the treetops on grotesquely long arms. You’d really hear him coming down the stairs in the morning! I expected him to knuckle through the doorway, swarm up the door, and leap to the lampshade.

He also started to pick up anything tubular, rolls of wrapping paper, for example, place them next to a victim’s ear (usually mine), and whoop, whinny and growl through them. Then he’d shriek with laughter, especially if nobody else was laughing. This appeared to be a way of defiantly compensating for, or rejecting the implied criticism in other people’s silence. After particularly provocative jokes, or after particularly stony silences, he’d also drum his open palms on his knees, with loose-limbed energy, while drumming his feet on the floor. It was reminiscent of simian aggression, but was done with an open, delighted expression.

I think Dylan was announcing or identifying himself, possibly compensating for a sense of being inconsequential and overlooked. He was trying to provoke and annoy – be challenging. For the attention, yes, but also to vent frustration at the restrictions placed on his life, to rebel in the most good-humoured way he could. 

I didn’t find this annoying (much). I liked him. And I shared his frustrations and his identity anxieties. 

Dylan started acting like this, though, after it had been suggested he might have ADHD. His new behaviours seemed to confirm the diagnosis, but they seemed too deliberate. These weren’t involuntary tics. They were actions decided upon. 

That was probably a coincidence, but it seemed as if he had been offered an identity and an excuse by his therapist’s suggestion, and out of his sense of shame and hollowness and need, he had grasped it with both hands and was clinging to it for dear life. I suspect this because I had felt exactly the same when it was suggested to me. 

On the other hand, there’s no denying that Dylan’s were unusual behaviours carried to unusual lengths. It seems obsessive to pursue such pointless activities so assiduously, especially if you don’t feel compelled to.

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