I'm not deaf. I hear things, but they are the wrong things. And
if I become deaf, what then? Several years ago, we feared my mother,
who has had hearing loss since age six, as I have, was going deaf.
Her graphs of audible frequencies plummeted to Severe. The next
level is Profound, which means Deaf to me. I planned to enroll in
sign language class. But the loss leveled off, and she got more
powerful hearing aids and spoke too loudly inches from my face.
I grew tired of being the idiot, so I went to my mother's ear doctor.
"Your hearing loss is symmetrical," the audiologist told
me, "That's good." Why, I wondered? So that neither ear
feels left out? I would like one perfect ear canal, with overly-sensitive
nerve endings, to put the other ear to shame.
When my father bothers my mother, she simply takes out her hearing
aids. She reads just feet away from a blasting action movie, in
blissful silence. When road noise is too loud, or Sean rants about
the evils of Walmart once again, I wish my hearing loss was that
bad, that I could pull out my hearing aids and envelop myself in
soundlessness. Eventually, I will be able to; my nerves will continue
to freeze up, deteriorate, refuse to detect sounds.
I watch mouths move as people talk; lips, tongues and teeth show
me whether a sound is a soft W (lips pursed together, open around
an invisible straw) or a P (lips gently pressed together), and I
know if the word spoken is win or pin. I become distracted by the
intricate, graceful motions of mouths, by a glint of silver filling
or an especially active tongue flicking between teeth and playing
along gums, watching mouths rather than reading language.
Sean comes home from a late call and crawls into bed. I reach over
and his body is stiff. He speaks slowly about the head-on collision
between a farmer's truck and an underage stripper's red sports car.
It is the first fatality he has seen as a firefighter, and his voice
is soft and flat like a talk show rumbling in the next room. Though
I strain to hear, I do not ask him to speak up. I don't want to
know details about the farmer's almost-severed neck. It does not
matter if I hear specific; all that matters is that I know he has
been shaken, and comfort him.
I am used to the fluctuation between silence and sound from my
parents' home, and I know our lives will continue to dance ever
closer to these extremes. Instead of soft expressions of love, Sean
must speak loudly to me. We will have no whispered conversations
in the dark. Later, when I can only hear yelling without hearing
aids, we will communicate by winks, grimaces, back scratches. Deafness
will whittle away those not dear to me. I will sit in a silent room
and won't mind.
Spies lives in Denver with her husband, Sean, a couch-loving
mutt named Angus, and a severely overweight cat, Muldoon. She received
a MFA from Colorado State University, and currently works in the