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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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Outcasts and Angels: The New Anthology of Deaf Characters in Literature
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“You had no right to make that decision for me. You tricked me into bearing a child I did not want. This was my baby, my choice, and if you didn’t want to take the risk, you could have just told me. You offered to help me and then you chose to back out and save your own skin, and didn’t even have the guts to tell me. Or did you want to see me suffer? Acting out some little revenge fantasy because I dumped you five years ago? How could you be so hateful?”

He shook his head, pleading. “I didn’t do it to save my own skin, whatever you might think. And I don’t want to see you hurt.” He reached out toward her arm and she jerked it away. His hand dropped awkwardly. [I wanted to help you, Marina. I tried, but I just couldn’t. You weren’t only making a choice for yourself, don’t you understand—you were making one for that baby, too, one that he would have to live with all his life!]

“Oh, so you think you’re playing the great hero,” she sneered, “rescuing this little innocent child from the terrible handicap his mother wished to impose upon him?” Her wristband began to vibrate, but she ignored it.

[No, I don’t think that deafness has to be a handicap. But it was different for you, Marina. You had the chance to make friends with people like yourself, your own age. But the last deaf child was born twenty-five years ago! You know how conformist kids are; they all want to wear the same brand of jeans, for god’s sake. Do you really think he wouldn’t resent being the only one who couldn’t hear? Did you ever think, what’s to stop him from getting a cochlear implant the moment he’s old enough to understand he has that choice?]

That shook her, and she didn’t say anything. She hadn’t thought of that at all, that her son might rebel and choose to be hearing. The same way, as a teenager, she’d finally stopped trying to please her mother and embraced the Deaf world. Suddenly she thought of Lianna’s daughter, who had gone off to a hearing friend’s house rather than stay with the adults at the Deaf party. And Lianna had let her. And the girl had signed to her mother, and hugged her before she went.

“Marina, please try to understand.” He gestured toward the bassinet. “He would have been so terribly, terribly alone.”

“He would have had me.” And behind that, the other thought, the she didn’t say: and I would have him. The way she’d never really had anyone—not Jeff, not even dear Grant, or any of her other friends or lovers down the years, even the Deaf ones. Not her own mother.

She stared down at the child, his face mottled red and his mouth open in a scream. He would grow up part of the hearing world, and she would never understand him. They would be separate forever. All the dreams she had, all the things she had wanted to share with her child, all of them crumbled into dust. He would be ashamed of her, his deaf mother, the way her mother had been ashamed of her deaf daughter.

Jeff made a small motion. She had forgotten he was there, but now she looked up, hatefully. “Get out. Get the fuck out and don’t ever come near me again.” She threw the interpreter at the bed.

He stared sorrowfully at her for a moment, and then started for the door. In the doorway he turned around again, and waited until she gave in and glared up at him. He spoke slowly and carefully, making sure she had time to speechread. “If you love him, Marina, it won’t matter that he can hear. He will learn your language and your culture because it is yours and he loves you.” Then he was gone, and she collapsed onto the bed, curled up, and began to sob. Her watch was still vibrating, and she pulled it off and flung it across the room.

Sometime later, Grant came in. He didn’t ask why she had been crying, so she assumed Jeff must have told him. She was grateful not to have to explain. He didn’t say anything, just sat on the side of the bed and stroked her hair off her forehead.

“You know,” he said after a while, speaking and signing together, “when scientists prove gay g-e-n-e-t-i-c finish, gay almost become class” —he paused, “d-e-f-e-c-t,” he spelled, “same deaf. Only because many many of us . . .” He looked off for a moment, then spoke in English only. “And still the political climate could reverse again at any time.” He turned back to her, taking her hands in his. “I understand what you are losing, Marina, what you fear. And the battle you must fight.

“But do it yourself, love. Not through your child. Your son doesn’t deserve your love any less just because he is different from you.” He leaned forward and kissed her gently on the cheek. “You think about,” he signed. “Now, I believe you need chocolate milk s-h-a-k-e. Good?”

Marina wiped tears off her cheek and nodded. Grant smiled. “B-right-B,” he signed.

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