Deaf women are something special.
Maybe it’s because when I speak, I know her eyes are focused very intently on me, my hands and face, taking in my every diction, expression, and gesture.
When I do likewise, I take great pleasure in watching her lips form meticulous consonants and the roundness of her vowels. Some people make fun of deaf accents, but I love them. They have a very creamy, elegant sound to them.
Her eyes, face, hands, clothes, everything about her has something to say and there is this energy that flows through her whole being. She is full of emotion and communicating with and to the world all the time. I feel connected to her, because there’s no fudging it. When she’s sad, her face falls to the floor and fills with clouds. When she’s happy, her face lights up and she smiles BIG.
I look in fascination at her solemn, quiet expression as she takes in the world around her, every sound, sight, touch, and sometimes even sound. I know that, even if she cannot hear and even if she cannot speak, she is fully engaged and with us.
I don’t feel awkward around her like I do with other people. When my mouth or my mind cannot form the words that I want, my hands take over. Even when I am not using recognized signs, she gets it. Even when I don’t understand the meaning of every sign, I get her. We just get it. It’s like we’re on the same frequency. We use our whole selves to commuicate and share each other, and I feel much less inhibited. I often feel like I am watching a play, being written and acted in the moment, and the act of communicating takes on this air of excitement and joy, rather than exhaustion.
She doesn’t look askance at me when I hesitate to cross the street, swiveling my head nervously from side to side, or when I jump with surprise and elation at the train rumbling beneath my feet. I know I’m not the only one totally lost in conversation, when the voices blend together, because you are smiling meekly at me, asking me what just happened. I’m not the only one cursing silently at the intercom and breathing a sigh of relief when I look at the captions at the bus station and realize I didn’t miss my bus.
Most people can’t understand why I dread face-to-face confrontation with strangers, why I just never seem to get what’s going on, but you do.
We may not always understand each other, but we don’t always understand other people either. Plus, we expect it, and we embrace the awkward silences as getting to know each other, imperfections at all. We embrace the imperfections because no one else will, and we know what it means and that it’s okay to be different.
My eyes are immediately drawn to your cochlear implant, or hearing aid, if you have one, with its bright colors, its designs, and its sequins. You don’t want to hide. Your ears are just a special as those of a hearing person. It’s strength. You stand confident, one hand on your hip, and my eyes are drawn to another brightly colored, sequined object-your FM device. You don’t lie about what it is, either, although you could have easily said it was an iPod strapped to your black studded belt. It’s an FM device. It’s no big deal. It’s cool.
You know why I secretly laugh when people tell me I’m doing so well. You roll your eyes along with me when people tell me to just listen more closely.
Maybe that’s what it is. You’re a great listener.