The first things I loved about My Someone were his ears. They were smaller than average, and shaped like seashells, curved in on themselves and then hollow. They seemed to ask to be whispered into. Or I wanted to hold them up to my own ears to hear the ocean. Our first kiss was not on the mouth but on the ear. My lips to his ear, then his to the ridge at the cusp of my own.
It was ironic that I loved those ears so much, because two years after I met My Someone he went deaf. Those ears became useless flaps of skin that swirled angrily away from his face. There was a betrayal there: it was as if the ears had understood my love for them and reacted like a man would, pulling away from the love and then shriveling.
My Someone and I learned sign language, and communicated that way instead. The sign language class was in a building that was squatting. There were awful shrubs around, too, the kind that had been shaved into weird and bulbous shapes. My Someone stuck his tongue out at the shrubs when we passed them. We hated things like that. We hated the sign language teacher, too, who was as equally groomed as the shrubs. She wore dresses shaped like tents and had manicured hands that sparkled when she moved them into words. In class we wrote notes on the small notepad that My Someone carried with him in the pocket of his vest. I wrote, This class is no fun. And he wrote, That’s why I’m paying attention to you, instead. The best thing about having a deaf someone was the note-writing. Everything we said to each other was saved.
The sign language was complicated to learn. My hands were fat and stiff, and I had trouble using them like I used my mouth, which I never had so much trouble exercising. While the other people in the class made progress, My Someone and I made love with our eyes. But when Miss Tent Manicure approached our table, we were prepared, and made quick and confident motions with our hands.
Verrry good, said Miss Tent. And we agreed that we liked her even less because she did not care if we were learning or not.
Eventually our own language emerged. It was a combination language, sectioned off into various parts. We had a public language, which we used at the grocery store or when we attended parties, which consisted mostly of nodding and smiling. Nodding and smiling were our favorite public verbs. Then there was our note-writing, which we used to tell secrets. And then the sign language we made up during Miss Tent’s class, our own set of symbols that were not the right ones but the ones we understood. We closed our fist up and pointed to the space inside when someone was being an asshole. We flapped our arms like wings when we were excited. We put our hands over each other’s ears when we wanted to let the other know how much we loved them. Sometimes we would fall asleep like that, with our hands on the sides of each other’s heads, like a safety helmet.
We lost most of our friends, due to the fact that we could only communicate with one another. Rob and Sara did not invite us over for tea anymore, which we didn’t mind because their tea tasted like black licorice, our least favorite flavor. Our parents were dead. Michael and Michael who lived below us complained that we didn’t make enough noise, that they could never tell when we were home. I wanted to tell them: but we are always home! You just aren’t listening closely enough! We stopped going to Miss Tent’s class and reminded each other how annoying her manicured face was. My someone wrote on his notepad, You are all I need. I made a face like a moose, which meant we should have sex.
I bought a pair of industrial headphones and wore them around the house. I liked to be deaf, too, to be closer to My Someone. He said that I looked like a mouse when I wore them, but because he wanted to be the same as me, he bought a pair at RadioWorld and wore them around the house, too. We never knew if anyone knocked on the door, or if anyone in the neighborhood was playing music. We could hear nothing. We acted like mice and made nests for ourselves, and sniffed each other’s faces. We didn’t even have a TV. We hated those kinds of things.
One day I forgot to put on my headphones and accidentally heard a knock on the door. It was Miss Tent, who was there to tell us we had missed a total of four weeks of classes. I stared at her blankly. I wanted to put my headphones on again, but I just stood there and watched her tent dress flap in the wind. She said what she said again. Do you realize you have missed a total of four weeks of classes? Then I cranked my right arm up like a lever and swung it at her, hard. My punch landed on the tent dress, and Miss Tent went unharmed. Four weeks, she said again, her eyes watering. I yelled: What do you think I am? Deaf? There was a large silence. Bigger than the silence of my new life. Then Miss Tent said something I didn’t understand with her fingers. Her eyebrows turned into hedges of disapproval and the world fell silent under her moving hands.
Molly Prentiss’ fiction and poetry can be found in Everyday Genius, Mud Luscious, >kill author, La Petite Zine, Staccato Fiction, and Fourteen Hills, among others. She was a writer-in-residence at the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (2010-11) and at the Blue Mountain Center (2011). She lives in Brooklyn, New York, as well as on the Internet: mollyprentiss.blogspot.com.
Photo credit: Alvimann, morguefile.com