Orchid of the Bayou A Deaf Woman Faces Blindness
“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 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!”