The Deaf Way
II Anthology: A Literary Collection by Deaf and Hard of Hearing Writers
In your dorm room you stare at the postcard for a long time and tack it on the bulletin board above your desk. Happy? Him happy? It is hard to imagine him that way, really. He was always so pissed off at the world, especially at the state legislators who decided his deaf school wasn’t worth the expense and shut it down for good. The state’s debts compounded by a limp economy, had grown too large to ignore. You vow to visit Gallaudet one day.
Your deaf friends at college tell you stories from their lives, and you begin to feel warmly whole. At home you still speak, and you don’t tell your parents that you’re using American Sign Language out in the open at school. You are eternally grateful that they’re paying your tuition, but you know they’ll never understand you as you are. The very idea of you using asl would break their hearts. After all, they’ve donated a great deal of money to the Alexander Graham Bell Association over the years, and are often listed prominently in The Volta Review.
Yet their love for you can’t be mistaken for paternalism. They’ve genuinely tried to encourage you to participate in various extracurricular activities at school, and they do attend as your devoted cheerleaders. You love them because no one else cheered for you when you came in next-to-last in women’s track, or when your science project won third place. You were never told that you couldn’t achieve anything because you were deaf. But the unspoken corollary was that sign language would hinder you in insidious ways.
But those stories told by your deaf friends enrage you. They were unjustly punished merely for wanting to communicate, even if it meant through their hands. You vow never to let that happen again, and you take out your AGB membership card and light it with a friend’s match. They clap with glee, and you know you’ve found a better home than your parents could possibly imagine for you.
3. Ignore the Little Insecurities That Nag at Your Deaf Pride.
After graduation, you move to Seattle. You find a job as a computer technician; you had been surprised by how much fun it was to fix those damn things in college, and now you can’t believe that you actually get paid to do such things. Of course, the fact that you are both female and deaf seems to bother some of your clients, but they say nothing when they observe your troubleshooting speed. Boom-boom-boom. You’re out the door, and your clients are already raving about you to their friends.
You still talk with your parents through e-mail.
In time, you meet a cute deaf man named George. You fall for him because of the way he signs, in a slowpokey kind of way. He is a computer programmer, but he is such a child at heart. He plays games all the time, he thinks nothing of wrestling with buddies in the living room, and he has a big heart. He comes from a deaf-strong family, and you are struck by how included you feel in his family. They welcome you with open arms, they are so relieved to see that you’re indeed deaf. Just like them. They don’t have to justify their ways to you. You and George become engaged.
When your parents meet George for the first time, they turn quiet with rage. They don’t say anything about his gravelly voice or bad speech, but they are not forthcoming with hugs or attempts to be close, as they were with your hearing sister’s boyfriend—now her husband. That day, out of eyeshot, George turns to you and says, “Hearing control wedding don’t-want.”