My smartphone vibrates. I pick it up. It’s the latest model. I can video-call anyone, and I can lipread and talk at the same time. It’s great. It makes me feel like I’m hearing.
I’m about to call my girlfriend Hannah and ask her if she wants to eat out with me at Pizza Luce. It’s her favorite restaurant. It’s also the same place where I took her out for our first date. Six months later I got down on my knee and flipped open the tiny velvet box. She signed yes yes YES. She wanted to be my wife more than anything. I never used my voice with her because she wanted to be with a deaf man who could sign.
We started having sex. We couldn’t help ourselves. She wanted a baby right away. I said no, not yet. We made love some more. We were always careful.
The logistics for our wedding became a major headache. I didn’t want a big-assed church wedding. I wanted to get it over with, but no, she had to think big big BIG. Hannah was lucky that her father had the money. He was bald and round-bellied with a double-chin. He taught genetics at the local university. He said I should call him Alec as if he was my best buddy, but I could tell he didn’t like me.
I didn’t like him either.
But we both loved the same woman.
I knew I had the edge because I was deaf. He was hearing and didn’t sign very well. Every time I went to her house, I always signed without mouthing the words in front of him. He had to see that she and I had a language of our own. He was a true foreigner in our world.
Thinking it a call from her about another wedding detail, I click accept on my phone. The wedding is in two weeks. She hasn’t told me yet, but I know she’s pregnant. She has to be. Not sure how many weeks, though. I didn’t mean to find out. I was standing over the toilet when I spotted the home pregnancy test package in her wastebasket. I took it out. I saw the telltale color on her litmus paper strip. That’s how I knew.
I look at the phone’s screen. It’s not her. A thin man with slicked hair parted in the middle and a pince-nez perched on his nose peers at me. His skin is pale. He seems uncomfortable in his three-piece suit. He’s not of this century. He is all scratchy sepia.
I mouth the words as I sign, “Who are you?”
He looks gravely at me as if I’ve sinned.
“What do you want?”
“Me not understand.” His signing is precise as a typewriter.
“You sign? Great. What you want?”
“Inform-you baby yours hearing will. Advise you-two move-away now.”
He looks as if sorrow has draped its shroud around him.
“True-business? How you know?”
He merely stares at me.
I notice that he’s not holding his phone. His camera is floating smoothly like a Steadicam. There is no video stutter. “Call-me why?”
He brings a finger to his lips, as if to say, “Shhh.”
“You odd! Bother-me finish.” I hang up. I click on my list of received calls to see what his phone number is. There is none. How could that be?
I wait a day to see if he will call again.
I do not tell my future wife about the call. She would think I was loony.
Two weeks later the wedding goes smoothly.
My hearing parents are a mess when they over-enunciate to me how beautiful our signing was during our ceremony. If only my signing had been as beautiful back when I was young. Maybe they’d have learned my language, my world. Then they wouldn’t feel so awkward around our own friends.
My new father-in-law uses an interpreter as he mingles among our deaf friends. I am surprised. Most hearing people talk among themselves on one side of the room. Deaf people stay put in well-lit areas. He’s clearly a man with a plan, but I’m not too worried. He’ll never master our language after a lifetime of listening.
Seven months later our baby is born. She turns out to be hearing. I don’t tell my wife how disappointed I am. She is completely radiant. My father-in-law is already using his voice, cooing and whispering into our baby’s ear. Our daughter Alice is already his. It doesn’t matter how well she masters our language. The ability to hear will ultimately take her away from us. He gives me a smirk.
I spend the rest of my life like a tornado in need of a town to shred across the plains.