I noticed it first in middle school, but it wasn't that big of a problem. My friend and I stopped at a water fountain on our way to the library because "I'm parched," she told me. We ran in gym and didn't get a chance to grab water afterward because the line got too long and we wanted extra time to wash the sweat from our hairlines and under arms. She stooped over the small fountain and let the water run for a moment because "you never know whose lips have touched the spout and this way it cleans itself off before you catch the germs" and started drinking. I started to ask if she was really that big of a germophobe, but a sound stopped me from saying anything.

I knew the sound, like I knew my name and hair color; a sound I have heard everyday of my life, multiple times throughout the daylight available to me.

A gulp.

Just the water going down her throat as she continued to drink. And since water was "like the only thing she ever drinks", this went on for a few moments. The longer it continued, the more irritated I became. Why was this bothering me so much? It wasn't a foreign sound. But it felt like a fingernail digging into my windpipe.

"Can you stop that?" I asked, shrugging my shoulders to my ears.

"What?" she said as she straightened, confused. "I'm thirsty."

"Not that. That sound . The gulping."

She looked at me, then back to the water fountain. "What are you talking about?"

"When you swallow. It sounds like you're gulping, like on TV when a character is nervous."

"Oh. You mean like this?" She turned the water on again and filled her mouth, standing back up and taking a step toward me before gulping it down loudly. She laughed at my physical discomfort.

"Stop! Can't you just be quieter?"

"I guess I can try. Sorry." It's clear she didn't fully mean it.

When we finally got to lunch, we laughed and joked over our food, the room far too loud for me to hear anything but the innocent banter of the other students around me.

"Did you hurt yourself before the biting started?"