I went to a gallery opening tonight. Room full of people, makes it hard– not impossible–but hard– to understand or carry on a meaningful conversation. I was depressed to start with. When I went to the host to request a glass of wine–I signed. She understood! Knew a bit of ASL. I’m far from fluent–but something changed in that brief exchange. I turned off my voice. For the rest of my time there.
There were people who know me, so I wasn’t concerned about anyone thinking I was playing at being deaf. And they knew I’d been learning ASL. That I was HoH. Others, who didn’t know me… accepted without explanation–one person, inexplicably, started mouthing without voice…not any that I could hear anyway. … like maybe I’d be more able to read her lips. Strange.
It felt so.. I don’t know… I don’t want to overexplain it, but it was like– I felt more ‘there,’ and more distant at the same time. People so often misunderstand, misread, just… miss… when I speak. “Mismeeting,” was Martin Buber’s word for this. Something beyond, misunderstanding.
I wanted tonight–to give up voice. Turn it off — and not ever again use it.
All the way home… buying brush soap at Blicks, a bottle of wine, passing a street citizen who, by his signing to himself, I saw was deaf–and stopping for moment to chat briefly in sign.
Then passing the stairs to the subway, I thought I’d get out of the rain–not walk the extra block to elevator to the subway.
I missed a step at the bottom of the first landing, fell.. broke my walking stick and the bottle of wine. Did not hurt myself, not at all. The things I carried took all the damage.
Was there a message for me in that?
I went back to Blick for Modpodge–which I’ll use to repair the walking stick–wrapping strips of canvas soaked in Modpodge around it, as I had done for two previous fractures.
I told my story to the deaf street citizen. In sign.
What if I were to take a vow of silence? I feel this as a world I want to enter. A world no longer dissonant, clashing with that of my inner voice. I have felt so torn, so out of place, dislocated. Why do I feel so much more at home when signing at meet-ups–as weak as my ASL is at this point?
It’s not the first time I’ve imagined doing this.
I can write–there is my link to my mother tongue. But in my personal space… speech, more betrays, than serves me.
I’ll take a pad of paper and pen with me.
A new way to be in the world.
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