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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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The Deaf Way II Anthology: A Literary Collection by Deaf and Hard of Hearing Writers

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6. Instead of Feeling Hurt, Wear Your Feelings On The Outside.

For days afterwards you can’t stop wondering whether your trustworthiness has become devalued among your friends, and whether they’ve been talking badly about you. You’ve been in the deaf community long enough to see how some deafies can easily spread inaccurate and hurtful stories, if only to destroy the ones they don’t like. Often, when you and George talk about throwing a party at your house, you two have to write down the list of all the guests and see if you know of any bad blood among any of them. Sometimes it gets too complicated, and the party almost always never happens any more.

One day, some friends come over for coffee and bring their kids. Once they’re satisfied that their kids are indeed safe in your child-proofed backyard, they share the latest soap opera installments on this or that deaf person you all know either by sight or by acquaintance. Somehow, without thinking, you pry loose some deep-down opinions. George’s always warned you of sharing your innermost thoughts with people you think are friends, but these days he seems constantly weary; at his company, the project of migrating from Windows 95 to a whole new—and invariably better—operating system has become much bigger than anticipated, what with bugs in the hardware and politics within George’s department. Completely attentive, the friends are suddenly yours. Their appetite for what you think of others seems insatiable. They nod agreement, and when it’s time for them to leave, you know you’ve hit on something. You’re not sure what it is, but you like the sensation of feeling this intense kinship with them.

7. Warning: Someone Will Backstab You Sooner or Later. (Usually Sooner.)

You are buckling the kids into their special seats in the back of the car when you catch George giving a slight wave to a beautiful blonde strutting by to the supermarket behind you. You know he didn’t think you’d catch that, but you have sharp eyes. Ever since these friends keep coming back for your thoughts, you’ve become much more aware of how men behave among themselves and among women not their wives.

You sit down in the car. “Saw you.”

“Me do-do?”

“Girl over-there you wave.”

“Looked-at-me smile.”

“Smile finish wrong?”

He turns the ignition key and says nothing.

When you are all home, and the food has been put away, he turns to you. “Heard many-many stories about you. Friends some-them don’t-want visit come over any more. Sick-you gossip.”

Usually the loquacious one, you feel unable to say anything.

8. Above all, deny that you’ve ever said a bad word or spread rumors about anyone.

That night you snuggle up to George’s back. You lick his sweet back slowly, in the way he’d said turned him on, but tonight he doesn’t respond. You know you’ve lost something, something that these friends of yours wouldn’t understand. You sigh, thinking instead about your kids, and how much they need a father in today’s darkening world.

In time, he will probably have affairs with other women, who usually outnumber deaf men by a wide margin; no wonder that deaf wives can be extremely jealous of single deaf women. In time, George will extend more of his love on your kids; of course, he still loves you and talks with you and all that, but it’s not the same. And in time, some of his pals will return to watch sports on his huge tv, if only because they missed his company. But you’ll always be remembered as someone who’d neglected the vigilance of watching her own hands.

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