Tuesday, August 02, 2005

FINGERED: the amazing deafblog serial #10

by Joseph Santini
copyright 2005

Natalie stopped, dropped and rolled, kicking out with one leg as she did so and hooking her foot around her opponent’s knee. With a grunt, Frank collapsed to the ground, and raised his hand weakly to signal he was finished.

She’d spent a great day at Riis beach yesterday, off of Far Rockaway; Mark had been fun, rushing in and out of the waves, and Amil had sat quietly, making sure they had food and just generally talking. By unspoken agreement they’d avoided talking about any of the Issues, although Amil had talked about the fuqara; she and Mark had been naturally interested in his work with the Deaf children there. When she’d gotten home there’d been an e-mail from Frank suggesting they meet up for a workout. From the look of him, gasping on the padded floor of the exercise room, he’d needed it.

“So you just teach now,” he commented, five minutes later, sipping a fruit shake. She nodded. “You should think about finding work that suits your skills a little better.” She stared at him. “Like what?” “Like, oh, private detective work, maybe. A lot of agents go into that, when they become civilians. And with skills like yours…” he shrugged and smiled at her disarmingly, pointedly nursing a bruise on his shoulder.

She grinned at him, and then at the idea. “Me, a detective? I’m just a girl.”

He snorted. “That’s what you keep telling people. Alright, I gotta go. Lunch hour over, and my boss will bust my chops if I get any further behind on paperwork. If you do decide to go the detective route, let me know. I can put you in touch with some people…” He rambled on and left. Natalie sat on the bench in the busy gym, sipping a banana shake of her own. A Deaf woman detective? Well, there was that Sue Thomas woman on television… but…

And Natalie had a moment of realization. She’d been so obsessed with her past she’d spent no time thinking about the future. Of course she was feeling depressed, frustrated, unable to decide or plan or move ahead, doing a half-assed job as an ASL teacher. With the past in your way – and getting larger every minute – how could you go forward? Maybe the only thing to do was to turn around. There was an elephant in her living room. A pink Elephant. She’d been ignoring it. Maybe it was time to talk to it.

So thinking, she went uptown. Her mother should be home by now.


“So, I want to say, thank you,” said Amil, pointedly shoving the little box across the table. Mark stared.

“Small gift, that’s all, for allowing me to remain in America,” repeated Amil. They both still smelled of salt and sand somehow, and everything burned with the heated darkness that eyes exposed to a day of hot sun chose to paint on everything. Mark didn’t quite reply. “Your signing improve, seriously. One day alone, beach, two Deaf people… imagine one year, two, of study. Become interpreter could you!”

Amil laughed. “Me sign same you wonderful can’t,” he replied slowly. “That’s why, this…” and again he pushed forward the box.

Mark sighed. This wasn’t the first time. Since he’d turned 15 – and filled out his tall 6’5” frame – men had been attracted to his lanky form. And now, tanned, his dark skin dusted gold-good looks could be a burden. He liked Amil. But… “You just say what? You see me poetry sign finish?”

“Yes, that one night,” claimed Amil. “In the Bowery. Your skill made me get you this.” Grudgingly, Mark opened the box.

It was a little camcorder, palm size. Nothing fancy, but something substantial. Mark looked at Amil, astounded.

“Remember my friend the fuqara? Colu Colu? He told me once that Sign Languages were dangerous in the wrong hands. Perhaps yours are the ones to carry the danger.” The signing was not clear, but Mark got most of it. Dangerous in the wrong hands…

Smiling, he accepted the gift.


“So, do you love him?”

She wasn’t sure how to answer this – she didn’t really feel like she loved anyone now. But sitting across the cafĂ© table from her mother made her think of better answers.

“Would it bother you if I did?”

Rosie paused, the lines of her face congealing. “I’m not sure, to be honest. He seems like a nice guy.” She puffed her cigarette, then seemed to come to a decision. “I love you no matter who you love. I just want to be a part of your life. I’m not always sure how.”

Natalie understood. “I’m not always sure how, either. I mean – “ and the Argument threatened to start again – “You could always go take more ASL classes….” she braced herself for the inevitable arguments – I’m too old, it’s too hard, I feel too silly –

Instead she was surprised. “Well, if I do, do you promise to let me in more? Introduce me to your friends? Will I be less embarrassing to you?”

Natalie smiled warmly. “You’ve never embarrassed me, Mom. Sometimes it’s… it’s just hard. It has nothing to do with you or I. We don’t need to feel guilty about or hold on to it.” She took a deep breath. “But if we’re going to be honest that way, then I need to tell you something…” Her mother looked at her expectantly. She took a deep breath. Honesty is the best policy. Road down a mountain, single step. Gotta try. “Remember all that time I said I was in the peace corps?” All beginnings hurt; even birth. Keep telling yourself that... she thought.


Amil lay on his bed, thinking. In his heart, he’d accomplished something. He’d given Mark a push down a road… was it a road the fuqara would have approved of? He didn’t know.

The attraction to Natalie, to Mark – it was still there. But something he’d only suspected had come to light the other day, in the sun, as they’d played on the beach. As he was now he could not be more than a small part of their lives. The stark language they used, he could learn, but until he did he would be no more than an outsider in their lives. But he felt the call back to medicine within him just as strongly. What would it be? What would he choose?

Mark had given him an idea – interpreting. A little research on the internet had shown there to be programs to learn to interpret in medical situations… he’d e-mailed an application. If they were there when he was done, Mark and Natalie, well, he’d try then. But at least he wasn’t waiting. At least he wasn’t watching. Now he’d be doing something…

His mind whirled, and his thoughts became less coherent, but no less happy. It is easier to be happy, with a future.


Mark rested his arms on the table before him, then nested his head on his arms, staring at the camera. The things he could do with it! He thought about taping his poetry, using the camera’s magery to refine, polish his work until a kind of distilled liquid perfection was made digital.

In this happy thought his mind turned to Natalie. He thought of taping her as he’d seen her last, dancing on the sand, hands wide and winglike on the wild air. And a strange feeling of guilt grew in him equally at this image, at the thought of a memory plucked from time and the soul, seen again and again until… would it fade from him? Would the feeling blur and disappear, leaving him with something abstract only, a ghost-memory, a masturbation of feeling on the screen?

No, he promised himself. I’ll never risk it. I’ll never film her. I’ll let the memory of her stay where it should be, fresh, ready to be plucked in my mind, and watch her turning clockwise on the wind when I dream.

It was enough. And so he fell asleep.


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