by Joseph Santini
The St. John's on 125th Street stood out, an organic Byzantine monster of a church set against the modern strips and lights of New York City. Natalie sighed. It was going to rain any second. She was ten minutes late. And this IDIOT kept grinning at her. But if they could pull this off, she might have the Pink Elephant off her back for a couple hours - and if they didn't, well...
"OK. Mother's name what?"
"Father's name what?"
"No talking, discussion, hello, nothing, who?"
"Room, left side, everyone."
He blinked, then remanuated "Rosemary bought sister's husband's his parents plane ticket. Parents say thank you? No! Think me forgive? NO!" His face twisted into a perfect imitation of Natalie's perfect imitation of her mother. [Hearing people recite. Deaf people remanuate. Ok, I made that up. -Ed.]
So. Maybe he wasn't entirely stupid. For a minute she almost thought she saw sunlight through the clouds. Generally Deaf men drank too much beer and lost too many brain cells to remember more than three things at once, unless they were gay, in which case Ricky Taylor made them buy Cape Cods until unconsciousness dragged them home. This one appeared to be heterosexual and thinking, and she would take her luck.
Her spirits raised, they crossed the street. And as they arrived on the curb, the Pink Elephant burst through the doors, having, her expression clearly stated, Waited Enough. At first she appeared to be doing a bizarre vaudeville dance down the stairs towards them, but a few steps closer and Natalie realized, as the quicksand of despair began sucking, that her mother was simply lifting her skirts and coming unbalanced on the step down.
Natalie was a tough girl, her friends considered. She looked it, with slightly reddish brown hair, tight but brilliant green eyes, and slightly wide shoulders. Right now, prettied up in maid-of-honor pink, she looked less like her analytical, brusque personality and much more like, well, a runner-up for a reality tv program. She wasn't, like, GORGEOUS, you know? But she was pretty and backed with a personality that hit you like credit card debt. It might have been the clothes that made her falter, as she rarely did, when her mother fumed towards them, a steam train of ten-minutes-late righteousness.
"Where the hell have you been!" Her mother took out a cigarette and lit it, screaming at them from five steps up like a PMSing Juliet. She could sign and was signing, but her hand moved in an instinctive counter-arc to keep the cigarette away from her face which made the words kind of difficult to understand if you didn't have astigmatism or something. So naturally Natalie was surprised when Mark showed no difficulty understanding but stood up and said:
"Ms. Fallon? Rosemary, right? Sorry! Responsibility mine. Me coffee spilled, shirt dirty. Bought this shirt, ok ok for wedding, sorry horrible i know, how are you?"
And remarkably, her mother seemed shocked enough to go along with him and head back into the church. Natalie shrugged. Maybe old P.E. brain crash, she thought, or maybe she just thrilled have boyfriend... She shrugged. Whatever. Fire out, tree pretty, she signed, as she and her friends had done at MSSD whenever they did something they managed to get away with.
Inside the church was a madhouse of Fallons and Rinaldis, large men in black suits, the smell of incense. Mark found himself ushered to a seat in the theater. Natalie watched him go off, bemused, until she found herself being ushered (something she hated. Damn family, no respect for Deaf people, just pushing me around like they're so goddamn important, a bunch of fucking criminals-))
She pushed the thought away. Some things were better not to think.
Her mother - she finally saw - shoved her into place. Remember. Same rehearsal last night. Step, step. Your partner, Amil. She pointed over Natalie's shoulder, and a dark-skinned man with bright blue eyes nodded and smiled at her. He hearing friend of- she sneered, refusing to name the groom's mother, and took off.
Natalie smiled at Amil. "Can you sign?"
"Not at all," he mouthed. "(unintelligible crap, more unintelligible crap) for the weekend (unintellegible crap.)"
Natalie smiled gamely. "So, you're a friend of Adrian's?"
He stopped and studied her, then... did something. It was obvious he had experience with Deaf people. When I stop using my voice I seem to move my lips more clearly and people seem to understand me better, he mouthed.
"Whatever you're doing, it works," she replied. Finally, she thought, she was smiling at least somewhat sincerely today. And he was kind of cute. Then the music began blasting - her cousin Frankie had bought, like, the biggest-ass speakers, almost as big as at Deaf Way -
The speakers made her think of Mark again. Two at least semi-intelligent heterosexual men in one day. But she had no time to ponder the good luck, because she had been really drunk last night and had no idea what the hell the wedding march thing was supposed to look like.
Four minutes later she tripped over her own dress, fell into the Rinaldi side, and gave her mother another reason to be mortified.