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Orchid of the Bayou A Deaf Woman Faces Blindness

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“What?!” her question took me completely by surprise. I studied her face, looking for a smirk or an expression of fear. I saw only friendly concern. Rachel had signed Usher Syndrome correctly with a U at the head, and S at the ear. She may have studied it in her master’s program at Gallaudet, I realized.

“I don’t have Usher’s syndrome!” I said my heart pounding.

Rachel shook her head.

“You don’t see us,” she said.

She pointed at the boy disappearing around the corner, and I realized that he must have tried to get my attention before I saw him.

“We wave for your attention, and you just ignore us,” Rachel was positively gentle.

“I’m busy!” I exclaimed, gesturing frantically at the papers before me.

Rachel’s face softened even further, but it held a trace of exasperation, too.

I tried to think of a way to change the subject and couldn’t. Helplessly my eyes returned to Rachel’s.

“Are you afraid that you will lose friends?” she asked.

It was another question I wasn’t ready to answer. I looked away. My frustration was fading. So were my defenses. I couldn’t stay mad. Being mad was work. I glanced back at her.

“Everyone knows!” she was blunt without being unkind. “Everyone knows and no one cares. You are still the same person.”

I looked away again. What purpose was served in pretense anyway? Who did I think I was kidding?

“It’s best to just say it,” said Rachel.

“Yes, okay, ” I burst out finally. “I have Usher Syndrome.”

I looked back at the floor after I said it. It felt good and bad at the same time, another kind of box was falling away.

When I lifted my eyes back to Rachel, I felt suddenly like crying. She hugged me.

“I’ve had it a long time…a long time,” I told her.

She nodded. She looked like she might cry, too.

“It must be hard,” she said.

I nodded.

“I remember at my old school we would all go running for the dorm and I would always trip on the step. No one else tripped…just me.” I paused and laughed a little in my tears. “It never dawned on me that everyone one else could see the damn thing!”

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