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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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Marina chewed and swallowed, shaking her head. “An ob-gyn. Serving his residency at UIC, and they just work him to death up there.”

“Ah,” Jeff said noncommittally. “I—” usually? generally? Marina wasn’t sure. “—eat out. I hate cooking for just myself.”

She tried to appear casual. “You could cook for your girlfriend.”

“I used to, but she left me two years ago. I think she ate my Jill.”

Marina glanced down at the interpreter, startled. The last line read, [I think she hated my chili.]

She suppressed a giggle. “Oh, that’s a shame. You did make excellent chili.”

“Aha. Then you had no excuse for leaving.” He smiled easily, and the look in his eyes was indecipherable.

Marina glanced away; suddenly sober. A single red carnation rested in a glass bud vase behind the array of condiments. The outer petals had begun to shrivel and turn dark. “We just lived in different worlds, you know?” She looked back at him. “Hearing and Deaf. It was too much for me. I didn’t mean to hurt you, I . . .I was just too young to end it with any grace.”

“It’s okay, really.” He seemed uncomfortable again, and changed the subject by telling her a joke about the Bears, who had had a particularly dismal season. She had to read it off the screen, but it was still funny, and Jeff seemed pleased when she laughed at the punch line.

They talked about inconsequentials for a while. Marina found herself watching his face, the line of his eyebrows, the way one side of his mouth smiled before the other. She remembered him sitting on her bed, laughing up at her; hunched over the Scrabble board, frowning and chewing on his lip; the way he used to gaze at her so intently just before he kissed her. . . . Her heart turned over a little. She realized, all unexpectedly, that she’d missed him.

“I miss hearing your laugh,” he said, breaking into her thoughts. “You have a beautiful voice.”

That sobered her up. He had told her that so often while they were together that the phrase had taken on overtones of reproach. As a compliment, it was meaningless to her. Why should she care what her voice sounded like? It was her mother who had forced her through years of speech therapy, and while it was occasionally useful to be able to speak directly to hearing people, it wasn’t how she communicated.

Jeff took a long drink, draining the glass, then set it down heavily. She felt the thump through the table and tensed. “So,” he said. “Is Grant your lover?”

Marina breathed out, relieved. “Oh, no. No, he’s gay. We slept together once, mostly out of curiosity, but I don’t think his heart was truly in it. He tried not to let on, though, so not to hurt my feelings.”

Jeff nodded, his expression betraying nothing.

“I’m going to get pregnant,” she blurted, then cringed at the way it must have sounded. She hurried to explain. “I’ve wanted a baby for years, but couldn’t afford it. Now my jewelry is selling well enough, and Grant will be around to help out at first. So I’m going to get pregnant.” She took a drink of water, more to keep herself from saying anything else than because she was thirsty.

Jeff looked only slightly puzzled at the change of subject. “Mother” was all she caught. Marina glanced down at the screen. [Wonderful. I’m sure you’ll make a terrific mother.]

“Perhaps.” Marina picked up her spoon, began playing with it. Now. She had to say it now.

“Jeff,” she said, and waited until he looked up at her. “I want to have a Deaf baby.” She mouthed the words precisely, barely voicing.

He stared at her, turning incredulous as it sank in. “Marina!” He paused and looked around, and then began again—more quietly, she supposed. [Marina, you can’t be serious! They located those sequences—god, twenty-five years ago at least.]

She caught her breath for a moment, hurt. “No. Only twenty-four.” The reason for everything, for her own existence.


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