FINGERED: deafblog serial
by Joseph Santini
It was finally true morning.
Mark floated with his head slightly under the water, watching the pattern of leaves mar the surface. He loved the early morning moments when stillness seemed to eliminate the need for thinking, breathing. His mind and perceptions contracted to a single point. There was no past, present, future; no ego, no superego, no id: only his soul, the water, and the world. No body, no spirit; only the knowledge that there was a separate existence, and one which knew no separation.
Until, that is, a branch splashed into the water and murked all beyond recognition.
As Mark paddled, gasping, to the shore, he reflected that there were some hearing people who couldn’t bear being around Deaf people. There were also some Deaf people who couldn’t stand being around Deaf people. They spent their lives in horror of seeing sign language in the subway. They carefully took off their hearing aids in an unnoticeable way to avoid being spotted on the street. They crossed the road. They crossed themselves. They lived their lives in fear and isolation, and he would love to be one of them at this moment.
Instead he pulled himself up the side of the pool, sat panting on the side, and stared across the water at his mother who stood at the edge of the water, smoking at him furiously, her curly hair in pre-coffee disarray. “Oh God! Thank you, thank you! Son alive still! Must pay pay for burial, not! Thank you! Fabulouso!” She signed all this one-handed and totally deadpan. Mark sighed. Sometimes he wondered what life would be like if his parents were hearing and he could just ignore them…
But then he thought of Natalie’s family. They’d seemed like nice enough people, but who knew what the hell was going on inside? Hearing family? Maybe not.
His mother continued haranguing, but he hardly noticed, picking up the net and plucking branches out of the pool. She was perpetual-motion Deaf, he sometimes thought. A couple nods was all she needed to power hours of signing. Beautifully, though; she’d been an actress in her day. Even some bit work on television.
“Past one week, you’re strange. Why? Poet’s night sucked?” She sat down, legs kicking branches his way. For all her incoherence she would occasionally click and then everything she did made sense. It was like one of those dance performances which seem totally random until you blink and there it is, a pattern, staring at you.
“Poet’s night, okay. Night itself sucked,” he dropped the net and signed back, frowning. He told her about Natalie and Amil and the wedding. Her eyes widened and giggled. “Finally Mark likes a girl! Since, I thought you really gay!” He grinned. His one hearing brother was gay and performed weeknights in Vegas these days as Vynita Somebody; there were always jokes about his following in her footsteps. “Well, my advice? Direct. Just be direct. Ask her what she wants, who she wants to date…” his head was shaking, but she held up a hand. “Listen! Idiot! Me, successful marriage, thirty years, house, son! You, twenty-six, know everything, single, lives with mother! SHOW ME RESPECT!” He gave her a puppy-dog look. She nodded, satisfied. (So they had an interesting relationship. –Ed,) “Now, finish pool. Shower. Ferry, City. Door. Knock. Answer. Talk.” She threw her cigarette in the water. “First, clean finish!” She marched into the house, head held high.
He followed orders.
It was noon. Wind, like people, is always in a hurry to get somewhere in New York, and today was no exception. It ruffled the trees on 7th Avenue as if they were large, green, leafy guitar strings which fell off every autumn... uh... (Some metaphors are doomed before they even begin.-Ed.)
He was going to tell her. He was going to get business out of the way, so he could focus on… whatever was going on with him. He was going to take a class in American Sign Language. He appreciated that her card said “American;” many of the classes he’d seen were quite arrogant, stating baldly SIGN LANGUAGE! as if theirs were the only, or the only good one, in the world. He remembered the glimmer of heat around the children, with the sounds of the city in the distance, as their hands danced thoughts around each other.
He’d not expected this cheap Brooklyn one-bedroom walkup to be Natalie’s home, not after seeing the wealth of her family and their friends (which he’d carefully cultivated.) It was unassuming. Hidden. It was a mask. He knew that without thinking. He’d used similar masks today, and when you’d had one on you could see the edges where things didn’t fit.
Park Slope didn’t fit her. The relaxed, Bohemian neighborhood didn’t suit her intensity. The Lower East Side, maybe, or the Meatpacking district. Harlem. She’d be more suited to the edges, not across the street above the little used-bookshop.
Still, Park Slope was gorgeous. He sat across from her home looking out of the window of a warm coffee-shop, walls stained brown, punk-lite art mapping the stains like highways. People here knew each other and smiled in friendly Birkenstock greetings. The coffee smelled equisite, although he stuck with Darjeeling.
His class was at 2. He’d been here an hour since Noon. Should he go up early? Would it be a bad idea? Would she even be home? He’d wanted to get a sense of where she lived and how, for his next report.
And then? After that, there might be no more reports. After that, there might only be hiding, and revenge. Amil shrugged. Only for so long could you stay the tool of another. Anyways, perhaps she’d be interested in communicating back. He thought the Prince might like that.
He decided. Early was better. And they did have a lot to talk about.
Natalie got off the VP with Mark. So. He was coming over. She really had no idea what to talk to him about. She wasn’t ready to talk about the thoughts seeing his poetry had given her. And she really wasn’t sure of anything about him. He was from Staten Island so her friends in Manhattan didn’t know much about him.
But one thing was in her favor: he was totally new. If he had no connection to her past or present, he had no weight to harm her future.
And the truth was, she wanted to learn about him. There was something oddly jarring about the person she’d seen in the church, the outgoing friendly smart guy, and the kind of introspection she usually thought of as poetic. And – not like other Deaf men I’ve finised met….
So she decided to call Amil and put off their class. She was interested in him, yes, but something basic inside her screamed, WANNA TRY WITH DEAF MAN! WHINE! SCREAM! Inner voices, she thought, sucked. Big. Time.
After the fifth time the terp tried calling him on the videophone, she had a sense something was wrong, but it wasn’t until Mark came booming up the stairs to get her that the feeling of weirdness threatened to take over her stomach and make it all go flarm into the toilet.
Amil was just stepping up on the entrance block when he heard the voices behind him. He turned, and there were…
Mulder and Scully.
Well, they looked mulderlike and scullylike anyway. They were here after him, and all he was was… well…
A semi-legal alien.
When he breathed in next he smelt burnt popcorn which someone had once told him was the smell of fear and every time he’d been afraid thereafter he’d smelt burnt popcorn but been afraid to ask if it was really his psychology or really a psychological trick because, he thought, doing so would be a flaw in his psychology.
“Mr. Mubarak? My name is Agent Sculder. I’m from the FBI. This is my partner Agent Mully. No cracks, please.” They folded their hands, all businesslike. He sensed part of them was enjoying this. “We’d like to ask you a few questions about the death of a young doctor in Saudi Arabia, an American citizen…” They droned on. He sat, frozen. The fuqara….
But stories of sand and snakes would not save him. And what would running do? Even in New York.
He agreed to go with them. What choice did he have? The world around him crumbled in dizzy purple fire. The last thing he saw before entering their little black car was Mark’s shocked face staring at him from across the street. Would he tell Natalie? She might be able to help him. But this was not the way he'd wanted her to learn his secret.
He’s a criminal! thought Mark, then again: or maybe not. Amil had been arrested outside Natalie’s apartment, though, and the first thought that came to his mind was: She’s okay, please, be okay….
He took the steps three at a time till he got to the door, looked around wildly, saw a doorbell that was less grungy than the others and figured it was Natalie’s (a leap of logic only Deaf people used to installing their own doorbells can make.) He pressed it repeatedly. Natalie finally showed, a slightly concerned look on her face. “Hi! What’s up? Hey, seen Amil? I tried calling finish, but response nothing – “
He put his hand out to stall her, then described what he’d seen. Her face went blank. “I thought, maybe Natalie’s hurt, but I see you’re fine. You think happen what?”
She seemed to freeze – then unfreeze into something else, eyes gazing off into the distance. Mark was startled. Before she’d seemed quiet, even bewildered. Now she was… tight. There was no other word to express it. Tight like twisted iron. “You recognize man and woman, can? Because maybe necessary.”
“Think so, yeah,” he replied, studying her face. She seemed to be… planning. “But… why?”
She afforded him only a brief glance, then went back to… whatever space she was in. “Because, maybe, my fault.” She looked at him. “Secret, keep, can?”