The Sound of Silence

I’m invisible. Well not literally – that would be cool. I think I’d be a good person with it. Although the idea of bad things to do with it have occurred – I might watch a certain person shower… Don’t look at me like that. Like that thought wouldn’t have occurred to you at some point. Well maybe I am just a bad person.

Anyway, I’m invisible because of my disability. I’m deaf and mute, and because I can’t speak people ignore me. They think I’m rude.

I wasn’t born this way. There was an accident. I don’t want to talk about it. I can just about remember my favourite songs. All I can do now is read the lyrics – it’s like reading bad poetry. You need the music. It’s the same with a film if you could only read the script. At least with films and TV there are subtitles. Although sometimes they’re wrong. I’m not talking about live subtitles where there can be typographical errors – rather TV shows. It’s clear that whoever wrote them didn’t have access to the script.

The world is so unprepared for people with disabilities. My local station doesn’t even have a lift. I still don’t know much sign language. My approach has been the same as when dictionaries are handed out in schools – you look up the rude words first. So I can swear in sign language but not much more.

Actually I tell a lie. I also know military hand signals. It comes form watching a lot of military fiction. I could command a small platoon. Well in a way I have. A few years ago my class was challenged to a paint ball game. I taught my friends the hand signals and we trounced the biology department. So unless I want to swear or command troops I can’t communicate.

The few times I’d seen sign language, in movies before the accident, it looked so cool. You could communicate flawlessly without words. When it’s your only way to communicate it is less cool – like playing a game of charades with someone who thinks that vigorous pointing is a good mime for a Pokemon movie.

I consider myself lucky, relatively speaking, that it was my hearing I lost. If some evil sadist had said I had to select a sense to lose it would have been hearing. With my two perfect eyes I can still travel and see the world. No-body talks about travelling to hear the world.

The only travelling I was doing at the moment was to work. The only way I could tell that there was an announcement on the train was that people were looking up from their phones, books, or tablets. I could tell enough from body language that the train had probably been delayed. This was a surprise as it had never happened before.

That last sentence was sarcasm. I know it’s silly, but that is the part of speech that I miss the most. You just can’t communicate sarcasm in text. Perversely text messages can also come across as sarcastic all the time.

I got up out of my chair and headed down the train. I needed to find someone who could tell me what had been announced. People never think of the disabled. I know I’ve said that before, but it’s true. I don’t mean that to sound like a gripe, maybe a little, but they don’t. I wondered what would it would take to put screens in the carriages? What if someone close to the CEO of the train company was deaf?

There were plenty of people on the train but I bypassed several of them. I don’t know why. It wasn’t about gender, race, or age. It was… well I can’t explain. A person can look a certain way and you think they’re not going to be friendly.

I do the bypassing thing when finding a seat too. I don’t just sit in the first available seat I walk a ways down the carriage – I don’t know why.

Near the door, at the other end of the carriage, a woman sat. She wore a lanyard with ID, so I could see her name was Sam. She had coloured strands in her hair, a shirt that fell off one shoulder, and multicoloured tie-dye trousers.

Sam, I made a snap judgement, was someone who would help me. That conclusion was just as irrational. However, I’ve found that the more unique someone is the more friendly they are.

Sam was reading a book and looked up at me. Her smile was a mix of curiosity and intrigue. I think that’s a tautology. I mean that she was probably wondering why I was hovering and wondered what she could do for me – I think she wanted to help. I pointed to my ears and made a cut throat gesture. I took my pen and paper from my pocket and wrote a message to her.

She read it, wrote a response, and passed it back.

Apparently there was something wrong with the train and it wasn’t going to proceed beyond central station. I thanked her by means of a thumbs up. I showed my displeasure at the train company by indicating the carriage and face palming.

Sam smiled and said a word in agreement – I can’t read lips yet either.

I nodded my head and turned to go back to my seat, despite the seats nearby. I’m something of a creature of habit. Then I felt a tug on the edge of my jacket and turned around.

Sam held up a hand for sorry. She pointed at me, then at herself and indicated drinking – this woman was better at improvised gestures than I was. I grinned stupidly at the suggestion. She was beautiful, but there was a problem. I didn’t know if she was talking about a date or just friends. Not really important, but it was always a question when you’re gay – the lines can be blurred.

What was difficult enough in speech was even harder without it. If it was a date, that was great, and if it wasn’t that was fine too. I didn’t want to shut down any possibility. My mind raced to come up with any way to phrase the question, and it was all too complicated to write down so I decided on the simplistic. I pointed to each of us, made the drinking gesture, and nodded.

Sam smiled. She got out her phone and indicated for me to give her my number. I felt like a child as I held up fingers to tell her. Sam put it into the phone and my phone rumbled – I now had her number.

The train arrived at Central Station. As it turned out, this was Sam’s final destination anyway while I had to wait for the next train.

We arranged to meet the following Saturday. This time she wore brown boots, a white gypsy skirt, and a top that looked like it was made from pipe-cleaners. She smiled as I approached. We’d chosen Starbucks for our rendezvous – not exactly inventive but we knew, from our texting, that it was somewhere we both liked.

Before I lost my hearing I worked in a coffee shop. Sometimes we’d get costumers arguing over who was going to pay. One time a couple were both trying to pass me a note. I took the tenner, rather than the twenty pounds, as the change was easier.

With Sam there seemed to be no way for me to pay. I hadn’t even got my pen and paper ready before she’d started to order. I just smiled. She’d ordered my favourite drink, it came up on thetill, and she’d ordered a large one so I wasn’t about to complain.

I then realised something. Sam didn’t actually know my name. We’d been texting but I guess that had been forgotten. It’s quite easy to do. Even when you’re introduced in the normal fashion, names don’t come up more than once. Sometimes you can see someone at work, interact with them, and not know their name – then it gets too awkward to ask. You just know you know them – you know? So I wondered what name Sam provided for me.

I followed Sam up the stairs and saw that her boots were knee high. That wasn’t me looking – it was a combination of stairs and skirt. Where else was I going to look? We’d discussed in our texts how we were going to go about out date. We decided that playing a game was probably our best bet. We both had DSs so Mario Kart it was. Before we started, Sam passed me her phone. I frowned at it, not sure what she wanted. Looking down I saw my number. Where my name should have been, it said: ‘Cute Girl with Purple hair.’

I grinned and started to enter my name. I stopped myself from backspacing her ‘name’ for me, and instead I put my name in brackets. I handed back the phone and we started to play. This must have been a strange experience for her. We could either race or ‘talk’ or play. When I looked up at her though, she was always smiling. We raced, sipped our drinks, and communicated through a mixture of gestures, writing, actual sign language, and interpretive dance.

Well maybe not that last one.

When the time came for departing we gathered our things. We stood and faced each other and after a few seconds I took a chance at a kiss. I intended just a peck on the lips but she turned it to a full kiss – I didn’t mind.

The evidence seemed pretty conclusive that this was a date. I even said as much, in a text. Sam just smiled. She told me that she French kissed all her friends.

We definitely need sarcasm punctuation.