Some lose a lover to a younger woman or an irreversible illness. I lost my partner to a parasite invasion.
Imagine watching someone you love slowly die — except they’re still alive, still walking around, and still functioning. I reckon this would be akin to losing them to some kind of a cult. With sects, however, intervention and deprogramming could revert the brainwashing and possibly bring back the person you knew. And, although reversing a parasite invasion is possible, my now ex ultimately didn’t care to.
This is where I depart from the norm. A parasitic takeover is simply too much to process and accept. It sounds crazy; I get it. I often don’t believe this happened myself, which is when I thank the brilliance of cognitive dissonance.
Yet the scariest monsters remain those that actually exist. A parasite.
Contrary to what you might believe, a parasite, can not only be found in Third World countries. Hardly. These unexpected microscopic stowaways are far more common than we realize. In fact, these “highly adapted creatures are at the heart of the story of life,” writes author Carl Zimmer in his book Parasite Rex, Inside the Bizarre World of Nature’s Most Dangerous Creatures. “[They’re] clearly designed to live their entire lives inside other animals.”
It is estimated that the majority of animals on earth are host to at least one parasite invasion in their lifetime. In the United States alone, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified five parasitic infections that affect more than 60 million humans. That being said, perhaps my parasite story is not so unusual after all.
Parasites are so abundant that in some environments, they collectively outweigh the total biomass of that ecosystem’s top predators. Some parasites cause relatively few negative effects for their hosts, but there are plenty of parasites that are much more disruptive tenants.
A parasite can burrow in your brain and change you forever.
Confused? Let me use pop culture to help illustrate. In Season 1 of the FX television series Legion, the main character, David, is possessed by a mutant “devil with yellow eyes;” the Shadow King; a parasite — that lives inside and feeds off of him. The parasite gets stronger over time. This malevolent creature infuses itself into David’s very psyche, living there so long it becomes part of the mental wallpaper in David’s brain. When presented with the opportunity to rid himself of the Shadow King, David questions whether he even wants to. Since they have been together so long, David wonders who and what he would be without the parasite.
Like David’s lover Syd, however, I was more concerned with obliterating the parasite and getting my James back.
Yet unlike in Legion I didn’t have the privilege of a team of mutant Marvel super agents to come to my aid. Nor did I have access to a metal halo of a device to place around James’ noggin, temporarily isolating the parasite from his mind while I hacked for a more permanent solution.
Science Friction And Lost Love
I first met James in 2004 on Craigslist. Not in the personals; he was looking for a researcher and writer, and out of 250 applicants, he hired me to develop a handful of his documentary ideas. Strangers often told him he looked like a German version of Jason Statham.
I even tracked Julian Assange for him once in Iceland before WikiLeaks became a global sensation and Assange was sent to seemingly live the remaining of his days at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
For six years, up until late 2010, our relationship remained strictly professional, until we unexpectedly “fell in love” or simply put, our bacteria wanted to do the rhumba.
The first time he came to my house, to pick me up for a date, I gave him the grand tour before eventually escorting him to my extensive library. I handed him a book titled Madness: An American History of Mental Illness and Its Treatment. It was an odd book to possess, but James owned the same title. We shared many interests on odd subject topics other than mental illness, including euthanasia, cult leaders, creationism, death, the history of vibrators, and familial suicides.
As a teen, James worked on a deer farm in Ireland; he told me I reminded him of a delicate, innocent fawn. And then soon after, he started calling me “Bambie.”
“If we were ever separated, I could pick up your scent in a crowd.”
One day as I was lamenting James’ symbolic death, I came upon a folder titled Ocean Blue. In 2012 during a business trip to China he wrote this:
A coyote howled in my heart,
A full moon filled me, bright,
drowning all other creatures of the night, when you just sat there, to my right.
You are my queen baby, I love you!
Don’t worry about anything. And clear your head before you hit the sack. I desperately want to be in your arms and kiss the living daylights out of you.
Love you, my partner in crime and everything else!
James and I shared so much life. I eventually regarded him as my family too. At 37 ( he is six years my senior), he was the first man I’d ever lived with. It was during our first year together in 2011 that we dreamt up a co-venture in the Dominican Republic, and soon after started an online health and wellness magazine and marketplace.
After another tropical trip, this time in Puerto Rico, he dropped me an e-mail:
All sounds good on the developments with HoneyColony. Do it Bambie, I trust your judgment.
Thinking of you..
on my chest, white sheets, hot bamboo, ice cubes, coral sand, sea salt lips, coconut oil, sun chills, dusk light, jacques cousteau, blowfish alive and well, freshly planted earth, quiet chicken roaming, mango and citrus trees, standby machete, revolver and canister target, skimpy bikinis, erect breasts, nape of neck buzzing, peach, opening, moist, swell, lick, drink, swallow, embrace, fuse, melt, liquefy – love. sleep. Together.”
When we were together, we’d work alongside — oftentimes in silence. I was alone but with him. And then we would reconvene and cook dinner. Every night, we fell asleep curled up in each other’s arms. We had an unspoken choreography. I’d fall asleep curled into him, with my head at his shoulder level. Then I’d eventually turn around and he’d spoon me half asleep before we drifted.
Over the course of several years, we built our startup into a million-dollar company. The goal was to run in from anywhere we wanted. And we did so from places including Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, Greece, Italy, Miami, and Montreal.
He had joined me on my pursuit to hack health and so enjoyed the same foods, shared a similar worldview and sense of humor. Sometimes we’d literally party all night at home, just the two of us. We watched foreign films and he called my commentary the “Bee Track.” We even watched Legion together. (When the characters on the show express interest in killing the parasite however — just as Phase III was commencing– James lost interest in the show).
We worked well together. Until we didn’t.
Considering a parasite’s’ ability to penetrate and usurp, we are the bugs.
Crazy Cat Ladies And Small Blobs With Big Sway
Dive into the wild and weird world of parasites and you’ll undoubtedly come across Toxoplasma gondii, arguably the most infamous and studied neurological parasite. It’s a tiny protozoa with massive sway. As it crawls its way to the brain, it can radically alter the behavior of its varied hosts.
This exemplary tale of survival and savviness begins with T. gondi, aka Toxo, setting up camp in a rat.
“Once they’re safe and warm in the guts of their temporary hosts, the oocytes morph into tachyzoites, unassuming little blobs that can really do some damage,” writes Ben Thomas in a piece titled “Meet the Parasites That Control Human Brains” in Discover Magazine. “Those tachyzoites migrate into their hosts’ muscles, eyes and brains, where they can remain hidden for decades without doing much of anything.”
Slowly, infected rats actually become sexually aroused by the smell of an entirely different species: the cat family (Felidae). Rats then engage in fatal feline attraction; they actually commit a form of harakiri by practically sacrificing themselves to cats — and inevitability meet a horrible death. But not before they release the tachyzoites into the next host, who then poop them out. Infected cats excrete billions of infectious Toxoplasma oocysts into the environment.
From there, they can jump to the ultimate host: humans. Imagine Matilda constantly scooping out her felines’ feces from the litter box. And Voila! You may have yourself a Crazy Cat Lady (or man) in the making.
I remember rambling about T. gondi to a colleague at an art exhibit in Santa Monica. He cut me off to explain that his mother passed Toxo on to him while he was in the womb, before it burrowed its way into his eyes. Blimey! What were the chances? Doctors had to burn the parasites from his cornea. Toxo almost robbed him of his eyesight, which is why he paid ode to his vision by pursuing a career in photography.
Rat. Cat. Human. Brilliant. There you have it, a small bug with incredible influence over a host who is a bazillion times its size.
Parasites break the rules. And this is when the real fun begins.
Some researchers estimate that as much as 30 percent of the people on earth — more than 2 billion of us — are carrying little T. gondii tachyzoites around in our brains right now. Most of us have no idea because the parasite often causes no symptoms at all. Until the day it strikes. Toxo has been implicated as a contributing factor to chronic psychological disorders. Studies have linked Toxo infections to Parkinson’s, cryptogenic epilepsy, migraines, and schizophrenia.
One paper, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, argued that in areas with high T. gondii infection rates, these tiny parasites could cumulatively alter the behavioral patterns of entire cultures. While latent toxoplasmosis is usually benign, the parasite’s subtle effect on individual personality appears to alter the aggregate personality at the population level.
Goat Balls And Voodoo Rituals (Phase 1)
It all started circa June 2013. James and I had been together for two years. We were living in the Hollywood Dell in a big 1920s house when he got a gig in Haiti. He would become one of the first white men to journey to a sacred mountain in Haiti’s interior to honor Bondyè, the Creator God. His mission was to film a voodoo ritual, alongside Vodouisants, high priests (houngans) and priestesses (mambos) deep down inside a remote Haitian cave. The event would go down something like this: the servants of the spirits lucky enough to get possessed would sacrifice a goat and then eat its testicles. You know, the yooj.
While the investigative journalist in me was happy to see him go, I’ve never been able to watch the footage.
James shot the ceremony while standing in blood, feces, disease, mud, and spirits. Within five days of his return, he lost 10 pounds. It was coming out of both ends and it didn’t take long for me to assess he had parasites. I urged him to get his stool sampled, which he did. Western Medicine identified three parasites and my naturopath’s lab identified four. (I unfortunately never saw the tests myself to determine what type of parasites were involved. And now all these years later, it seems pointless for me to even ask for them.)
At that time, James and I were not the health connoisseurs we are today. We didn’t know about the antibiotic resistance epidemic. James, who had just given up toxic cologne per my counsel, was still steeped in western medicine. He’d taken Cipro while in Haiti for food poisoning (a treatment that now seems highly absurd and irresponsible given the benefits of silver), and another dose upon returning. He was considering a third round of antibiotics until my naturopath advised him against it lest he face a “total immunological breakdown.”
“The bugs inside you will be able to learn, adapt, and mutate. I recommend you fight this the natural way,” she warned.
Instead, I gave him a natural anti-pathogen formula called SCRAM, which momentarily kept things stable until he went through several bottles. From this point onwards — during what I describe as the first of three phases in the parasites’ evolution — James started getting ill about once a month. He’d undoubtedly get fever, diarrhea, and a tummy ache, spending a few days curled up in a fetal position, incapacitated in bed.
“To survive,” a parasite must usurp the resources of another organism to grow and reproduce according to a piece titled Rewiring the Brain: Insanity by Parasite. Many parasites accomplish this task by partially debilitating their host while still keeping it healthy enough to continue providing shelter and nourishment.
I noticed that the symptoms were activated around the full moon, which is when the freeloaders — who by the way absorb our nutrients and poop out dangerous toxic waste — swell with water and have sex parties in our bodies.
Mature tapeworms, for instance, can lay a million eggs per day and roundworms, which afflict 25 percent of the world’s population, can lay 200,000 eggs daily.
“Parasitic infections can disable the normal mental function by depleting the host of essential nutrients, interfering with enzyme and neuroimmune function, and releasing massive amounts of waste products, enteric poisons, and toxins, which disable brain metabolism,” describes Dr. James Howenstine, M.D., a board-certified specialist in internal medicine.
James had a dream one night. It was fairly nondescript; he was at a beach party with some braless women in South America when something strange occurred. He felt a strange presence. He said it was as if something had hacked into the dream. He noticed a figure loitering a few hundred feet away in the periphery of his vision. He slowly approached, yet when the figure noticed James noticing him, he froze to the edge of the periphery again. This dream repeated and on the third night, James got close enough to identify the figure: he looked like Don Fino Sandeman, the caped man from the sherry bottle!
Stool Samples And Mania In Cannes (Phase 2)
I awoke at 7 a.m. to pigeons making a nest on our roof along with a hell of a lot of noise, and James hovering over me with a look of distress. Since we were both digital nomads who worked together, we were now momentarily living in his friend’s penthouse in Cannes.
He explained how lucid hallucinations kept him up all night. Apparently, a jabba-the-hutt-like female creature had been sitting on me while I slept. Oh my! What could be causing his delusions? I immediately thought of the parasite invasion.
Around this period in late 2014 — what I describe as Phase Two of the parasite’s evolution — James’ sleep was often compromised. Many days he barely slept, contending that sleep was simply “a mindset” needed only by the weak-willed.
Over the past several months, I’d recognized heightened agitation and mood swings.
For instance, during a call with a potential investor that had come through me, James exhibited manic behavior and dominated the call with a 15-minute monologue. The call concluded with him telling the young investor that offering us $10,000 for a sizeable return was a joke. The investor’s family had founded Grey Goose vodka before selling it for over $2 billion.
At one point during the sales call, I scampered down the hall to James’ office, frantically pulsing my open palm at him to stop talking. But it was too late; he’d blown the deal.
“Let’s just say that if we were in a boat, and James was drowning, I would not lend my hand,” the investor later told me.
It was also during the beginning of Phase II in France that James announced the parasite had a name. He claimed “Edwin” didn’t like to be called a parasite.” The classic term, he said, didn’t explain its nature.
Of course that very morning — after a double espresso — I asked Dr. Google whether parasites can cause hallucinations.
Indeed they can. Parasites can cause personality changes and psychosis, including delusions and auditory hallucinations.
During my research, I also came across a parasite called Trypanosoma, which is actually found in Haiti. The bug alters the structure and function of its host’s brain cells. This particular parasite seemed to have a penchant for the hypothalamus, the area of the brain that regulates mood and sleep/wake cycles. The parasite alters the rhythm in which the sleep hormone melatonin gets released. (I have no way of knowing if this is one of the many parasites James came into contact with, but it’s interesting to note).
“Just like any other brain injury, any infectious agent that damages the brain has the potential to disrupt mood, behavior, and personality,” says Bill Sullivan, a Showalter Professor at Indiana University School of Medicine, where he studies infectious disease. Sullivan has published over 70 papers in scientific journals.
I suspected that the parasite invasion was causing James’s personality to morph. Parasites can influence multiple facets of host phenotype, including physiology, behavior, and biochemistry.
“Because pathogens want to spread to other hosts, one way they can do this is through behavioral manipulation,” Sullivan also told me.
Furthermore, a study in the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health concludes that the behavioral manipulation hypothesis predicts that parasites can change a host’s behavior in a way that benefits the parasite and not the host. Or their loved ones for that matter.
While in France, I urged James to get tested again.
“Bonjour. Vérifiez-vous les parasites dans votre laboratoire?” (Hello. Do you check for parasites at your laboratory?)
I must have asked this question a dozen times as I randomly called every lab in the region. Luckily, French was my first language.
James tentatively collected a sample but there was less and less oomph to fend Edwin off. And so the test tube of “merde” sat in the fridge for two weeks before I eventually threw it away.
On several occasions, I contemplated navigating the hot humid streets of the Cote D’azur region with a cup of his feces in my hand. But in the end, I didn’t want to be a “fixer.” James had lost interest. And this wasn’t my shit.
Life Lessons From A Parasite Invasion
James wrote about Edwin in a brilliant piece I edited:
“Most people who hear the word, visualize a worm that hasn’t shaved for weeks, with tiny antennas, living in a cabin in your brain or colon, chewing your guts out. But nobody really knows who ’he’ is, or that he sometimes takes more than the shotgun seat.”
That’s the irony, unlike most hosts, James grew aware of Edwin’s presence. As health-oriented journalists, we freely discussed with fascination the possibilities of an Edwin.
When observing animal behavior, we tend to assume that the animals are acting of their own accord. But what if there is another creature in charge of their actions?
Though this sounds too sinister to be commonplace, the evidence exists.
In fact, parasites use their hosts in ways that are often rather disturbing.
“It’s impossible to cover all examples of parasites controlling the minds and bodies of other animals. Indeed, there may be many cases that have yet to be discovered,” according to a piece titled Zombie Cognition: Parasites and Mind Control.
Besides Toxo, there are parasitic worms that turn crickets into “suicidal maniacs,” making them jump into the water where the worms need to go to breed. They also manipulate the crickets to “shut the hell up” with their chirping. Isn’t that arguably a cricket’s raison d’etre, a part of their seeming spirit?
There are thousands of other parasites we know very little about.
If these parasites are able to screw with other species’ brains, was it that strange to believe that a microscopic puppeteer was beginning to pull the proverbial strings of the man I loved?
Parasitism: The Most Common Way Of Life On Earth
While James and I continued to work and sleep together, he officially broke up with me three years into our alliance (around end of Phase Two of the parasite invasion), stating he’d outlawed relationships.
“What do you mean? Everything is a relationship. You’re relating to your omelet right now,” I responded after he announced he’d be leaving.
Shortly afterward he left Los Angeles and moved 5,773 miles away.
We then developed what I regarded as a “distancer-pursuer” relationship — I pursued the established relationship while he distanced himself. This resulted in a lot of tears and travel. We continued to meet in different countries like France for what resulted in lots of tears and travel.
It was in France that James began lashing out at me. Under this parasite-altered regime, his temper toward me felt paper thin.
“I want to sleep alone,” he snapped one afternoon. We’d returned from the beach and I wanted to nap beside him. He was incredibly cold. I found myself sleeping in a separate room.
As Edwin “grew and mutated,” it became clear that he didn’t like me much. I think I threatened his existence. It was as though he knew I stood in the way of him energetically siphoning the energy from James’ heart.
When I told James that he’d blown a viable chance at some capital, he snickered.
“So now you position yourself as the wise one. I don’t trust your ability and vision to make the right moves.”
It was a complete 360.
“Who is this? Is this James or Edwin? I want to talk to James,” I sometimes asked. Sometimes I got a reply. Other times the silence served as an even louder response.
A psychologist can simply chalk my tale to lunacy or a perhaps a shared delusion; his behavior “bipolar” or just plain asshole-ish.
Similarly, in Legion — David is misdiagnosed with a mental health issue when superpowers and parasites are at play.
I knew however there was something else involved.
“If the mind is a machine, then anything can control it – anything, that is, that understands the code and has access to the machinery,” was a quote I found in a U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health study.
“The brain is a ‘privileged site’ for many parasites,” states Joanne Webster, a parasitology researcher at Imperial College, London. “And that really challenges the concept of free will — after all, is it us or our parasites who ‘decide’ our behavior?”
Beliefs Beyond The Norm
Still too much for you to consider a parasite takeover? Consider that 99 percent of our cellular count (100 trillion) is other than human DNA. That’s right, you are more bacteria than you are you, making us all minorities in our own bodies. Bacteria in our guts dictate brain cognition, mood, and health.
You believe you are “one” but who are you at all?
Given we were all chemical, who was I to judge James’ parasite-altered reality?
Besides who would believe me? Studies on parasite vs person are scant. “Research into the potential neurological consequences of brain infection in humans is ongoing, although it is very challenging,” adds Sullivan.
Gauging a parasite’s ability to erode a heart connection — well good luck — that data is even more untenable.
“There is no evidence either way, but it’s unlikely,” states John Hawdon, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Microbiology, Immunology, and Tropical Medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences.
Nonetheless, I maintained that Edwin had carved out an entire section of James’ heart and set up base camp for ultimate dominion. Without someone tugging at his heartstrings, he was infallible.
Who would want to give that up?
Edwin et al., were influencing James, but given the physiological and psychological changes, they were imperceptible to most. But not me.
At one point during Phase III, we were staying in a remote mountain village in the Northeast part of the Peloponnese.
We were spending time with an older woman I had connected with who was trying to revolutionize her community during the height of the economic crisis in Greece. Voula was dazzled by James and his ideas.
“You are so lucky to have such a charming boyfriend,” she stated before taking a bite of souvlaki.
I used to be, I thought.
Superpowers Fully Integrated (Phase 3)
“I’m you. I’m me. I’m everything you want to be,” the Devil With the Yellow Eyes tells David in Legion’s first season.
By now, the powerful parasite has infested David’s body and mind, allowing for a successful hijack. More Devil than David, he uses his powers to systematically wipe out an entire section of the shadowy governmental task force known as Division 3.
I surmise that the phases of integration vary in humans, compared to let’s say a cat or a cockroach. Since humans have considerably longer life-spans (and are larger), one could reasonably propose that humans “are more susceptible to developing ‘unselected’ pathological behavioral changes simple as a byproduct of their extended durations of infections,” writes one study.
It was late 2016 and it had taken about four years for Phase III to pronounce itself.
I agreed with Voula; James still possessed oodles of charm. Meanwhile, his brain cognition function and physical capabilities only seemed to excel. Creatively, mentally, and physically, James was off the charts. He had evolved into a superbug of sorts.
Essentially, parasites evolve to out-maneuver their host. In response, the hosts evolve better defenses, and the resulting feedback loop is a veritable arms race known as co-evolution, according to Zombie Cognition: Parasites and Mind Control.
“Parasites can also have positive impacts on other species in the community. We now recognize that parasites influence species coexistence and extirpation by altering competition, predation, and herbivory and that these effects can, in turn, influence ecosystem properties,” states an article titled “Diverse effects of parasites in ecosystems: linking interdependent processes.”
It may seem strange that parasites would protect an animal’s health. But think about it, causing its host to die quickly is not good for a parasite, especially when he jumps into a human body. I wondered whether for certain parasites like Toxo if humans seemed to signify the ultimate frontier?
In terms of real estate territory, were humans “a get out jail” card with automatic dibs to Boardwalk and Illinois Avenue?
“With a few noticeable exceptions, we all have our own unique parasite friends,” Lawdon clarified.
Every organism has a group of parasites that infect it. We have our parasites, rabbits have their parasites, and frogs have their parasites. And in most cases, a parasite that infects a rabbit cannot successfully infect humans, and vice versa.
Still, I wondered if there existed evidence in the animal world of host-parasite interactions where the infected coped better and developed superpowers of sorts?
For instance, toxo-infected rats become braver, heedless to danger. A recent study indicates that the parasite may actually be a source of increased dopamine. Meanwhile, by modifying particular receptors, the ichneumon wasp enables spiders to weave an optimized cocoon web that is stronger with more durable support.
And a recent study shows that Artemia brine shrimp, infected with parasitic worms actually have boosted abilities to survive toxic arsenic-laced water. They also produce more antioxidants, according to a paper titled When Parasites Are Good for Health: Cestode Parasitism Increases Resistance to Arsenic in Brine Shrimps.
“I don’t know about parasites giving a person ‘superpowers,’ per se,” challenged Lee Couch, a biologist out of the Univ. of New Mexico with expertise in parasitology.
But there have been studies that seem to point to the fact that some parasites can actually have an indirect “good” effect. For instance, irradiated cow hookworm larvae (not a human parasite) have been shown to help some people with Crohn’s disease. But these are not human parasites — they come from another animal.
Regardless of the expert responses, I held merit in my personal experience. As I witnessed this final integration phase, Edwin went from being an invader to — what James now described as a “high priest.” Edwin was no longer an “enemy” but a “co-inhabitant.”
Edwin — not me — got the credit for “gently” nudging him to drop carbs, sugar, and alcohol, and who inadvertently led him to a ketogenic diet, metabolomics, and the amazing power of silver to bolster his immune system and stave off any possibility of physically getting sick.
The two had seemingly worked out a living situation that was a win-win.
Toward the end of the first season, The Devil With Yellow Eyes stalks Syd, and this time she has nowhere to run. That’s how I felt. James would likely tell me I was acting like a victim, but I don’t care. The parasitic nature of our now interaction had caused an entire section of my own heart to suffocate and die. James was collaborating with the critter. And I was on the outs.
“James, Edwin is getting the better of you.”
“Stop talking to Edwin in a demeaning way, you have no idea what u r talking about,” was the response I got via Skype when I asked why he had stopped trying to kill the parasites. “I’m not fucking boyfriend material or a life partner. Do I have to carve it on copper? Listen, you have lupus and autoimmune disease filters going on.”
This was the man who told me that we needed to hug every day and that I was his queen?
Later, James also admitted that he’d “be lonely without them.”
“I’m the magic man,” David says cockily toward the end. I think James credited Edwin for his genius.
By then, I’d stopped plotting ways to annihilate Edwin with ayahuasca, exorcism, coffee enemas, strict detox, or love. Who was I to dictate what I thought given his” free will?” Given that parasites usually reproduce more quickly than their hosts to maintain the upper hand, I figured Edwin was keeping a firm role as master.
Perhaps you think Edwin was a coping mechanism and that James was a flaming narcissist who never really loved me at all. It certainly looked like that toward the end. But I disagree, given our history and our undeniable connection. While I could accept that he no longer wanted to be with me, the underlying aggression and venom were perplexing. I’ll maintain that Edwin was rewriting James’ memories or at the very least his perception.
The love of my life is no longer tethered to a reality I reside in. Regardless of the true impact of this mental passenger named Edwin, I was no longer his partner in crime or even a friend. Ironically, in the end, the full moon did fill James bright, but alas despite his email and my efforts, I was unable to “drown out all the other creatures of the night.”