Monday, June 27, 2005

FINGERED: deafblog serial #4

by Joseph Santini
copyright 2005

Rosemary knew she was taking forever, but she couldn’t help it. It was the physics of the situation.

When Natalie’s mother went anywhere, she socialized like an orbiting rocket: circled around, chatted, circled, chatted, circled, started to burn, chatted, chatted, chatted, hit the center at re-entry speed, circled around and laughed, “Hello, hello, didjooknow,” to everyone in the place until the retro-pods fired and she landed in front of the host or hostess, telling them a funny little story about something or other. (Natalie often thought that this was the only way her mother was at all like a Deaf person.)

In this case, after witnessing the rushed and very careful wedding of her daughter, she spoke to Father Macauley because the In-Laws were Off-Limits. “She’s fine, dear, just needs a little hydrogen peroxide, maybe a band-aid, wouldn’t happen to know where it is?” Father Macauley indicated that he did, indeed, remember seeing the hydrogen peroxide somewhere, danged if he remembered where, hold on, Lashika! Lashika! Has anyone seen Lashika MacDonald? Lashika knows where it is, And before she knew it Rosemary was being propelled in a backwards circle towards the very door she’d come from. Only it wasn’t there, oh no, we moved it to somewhere else didn’t we? You’re right, Father, and again they moved into orbit around the crowd to another door. She was presented with a bottle, but the milling crowd made her somewhat confused. Where was she to go?

By the time she managed to get back to the little toilet and saw Mark trying to explain “No, I thought, you hurt, he take advantage will!” her patience was already worn thin. She’d learned a little of their sign to help her daughter, but she was never comfortable with it. She’d been glad of the space when Natalie’d decided to go to Africa and teach Deaf children with the Peace Corps. Two years, a long time, yes, but as her daughter had grown she just kept wondering what Natalie would have been like if she could hear. She’d never forgiven her ex-husband for the accident, even though the insurance and the courts had said it wasn’t his fault. He was the father. It had been his responsibility to protect his daughter.

Now Rosemary’s lovely girl had grown up to be part of a world that… didn’t adjoin, or even echo, her world. She didn’t know how to cope with it. And Natalie had returned from the Peace Corps even stranger than her mother remembered. A part of her would always blame Deaf people, even though she would, if anyone had asked, say firmly that nobody was at blame, things just happen, and she would support Natalie doing whatever she wanted.

But sometimes she thought: I wish I could hear my daughter on the phone. It was silly and sentimental. If Natalie knew, she’d spit and roll her eyes. And – which scared Rosemary more – she’d probably leave again.

It was nobody’s fault. Things just happen.

“Well,” she said, speaking and signing, “let’s see what’s to be done about the cut.” They seemed to ignore her. The boy gave her daughter some more water in her cup. Well, at least he was being helpful. Skinny, though. Her daughter didn’t take it. She slapped the cup out of his hand onto the floor. “Out! You embarrass me, attack Amil, my mother’s back, I need nothing. Please, go.” He tried to say something to her but she closed her eyes and signed “Please, go,” again. Finally he plucked a card from his pocket and threw it on the counter, then left.

Rosemary decided it was best to keep her mouth shut. For a few minutes, anyway, she thought.

When Natalie was firmly band-aided and peroxided her mother sat down next to her.

“You didn’t let him get much of a word in edgewise…” Natalie didn’t respond, but her lips tightened. “I think he liked you a lot. Don’t you?” Natalie’s nostrils flared. She sat on her hands. Her mother recognized this from when she was a baby – it was Natalie’s way of keeping her mouth shut.

“Ah, sweetie. I love you, but you don’t let me in. You don’t let anyone in, really.” She paused and bit her lip, then sighed and shrugged her shoulders back. “Why, I remember my own mother saying ‘you do best what you do most.’ And you’re getting very good at finding reasons to push people away. Why? You were such an open child. Why do you push everyone away?”

Natalie folded her arms on her lap and hid her tears from her mother, who stood and cleaned up the healing things – then turned around and put her hand on her daughter’s shoulder until she looked up. “I think you need to sit and talk to Mark. At least apologize for shoving him away. Whatever he did, however silly it was….” Well, she’d give her girl some time. “Go ahead and clean up, then come join us at the reception.” Natalie nodded, spotting her wet cheeks with a few squares of toilet paper.

As Rosemary left her quietly crying daughter, she wondered if she’d done the right thing, and what she’d ever do if she did get a deaf son. I suppose if she’s happy, that’s the main thing, she thought to herself.

Then there was light, and noise, and her other daughter Mandy danced out with her confused looking husband, and Rosie put her game face on.

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