16×20 Oil on canvas
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.And to the wine store.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?I don’t know.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.