How many self-conscious days passed before he could be completely relaxed, comfortable even, with the laughter of strangers, these others around him. When was it that he had become impervious even to the remote possibility that others were laughing at him, so loudly as others sometimes would, and in such close proximity.
He often used to wince when he heard their laughter, these others, these strangers, anywhere in his vicinity, laughing as others laugh, will laugh, have laughed, for all the myriad reasons humans laugh.
It is true that he was this self-conscious, not actually insecure as we used to mean when we said it to others in admonishment, meant to hurt, of course. But an acute hearing ,maybe?
Questions like these can never be answered. Responses to them are plenty, and for every response, a rebuttal, and so on and so on.
His favorite story when he was a boy was “The Tell-tale Heart.” You know, he used to say, that there is no old man; there is no beating heart; there are no detectives; there are only his doctors and his asylum.