torsdag, september 28, 2006

Gang Signs of the Deaf

Though this bum foot bone is a temporary gig, I'm considering getting a cane just to avoid the sort of panic thoughts that strike me when I know people notice the limp. I'm so not prepared for what to do if people do not believe me. I'm not prepared for what to do when I cannot believe that people believe me, and that I cannot believe that people aren't thinking something about it.

It's illogical, yes, it's a Riplian logic (as in the parlor tricks one might believe or not), but perhaps I actually can read minds, but only their scarred, deeply archived, seldom-accessible files of teenage subconscious paranoia.

(More than likely, I'm only projecting my own.)

It's a Sisyphan task. In lieu of a rock, I push a large, quivering, gelatin sphere in the center of which is a jiggling, blue rose.

Gang Signs in Aisle Five

Home from two weeks in Japan and greeted by an apartment I'd abandoned in such a paper-strewn state I thought I had been robbed or was actually a heroin addict in a made-for-tv movie, I had to get out. I needed groceries. Mostly, I needed low-fat vanilla yogurt, because I'm a creature of habit, and because between the hours of 5 a.m. and 11 a.m., I suffer an unjustifiable interest in ingesting only foods that don't require real chewing.

So I limped a circuit through the grocery store. In the cereal aisle, a woman spoke in sign language to a wide-back, slump-shouldered young man who stood stockstill in a way that made me think his eyes might be closed and his mouth slightly open. There was a somnambulic ease to it all.

The signing was in my peripheral vision, and it caused me to glance twice, once at the motioning, and again to assure myself that I hadn't been waved to or perhaps this was someone gesticulating wildly, in which case I'd look just for the sake of people-watching.

Nope. Sure enough, it was sign language. Maybe she was the deaf one. Maybe they were both deaf. Her lips moved with her words but not even a restrained breathiness escape with the movement of her mouth, so I assumed she was deaf (though obviously this should have made me believe she was either mute or could hear and knew how to silence what is often a faintly audible, hot-breath mouthing of words...the latter trait often hilariously afflicting people listening to music on headphones).

Once upon a time, I lived across the hall from a chain-smoking writer whose sister was deaf. I asked him what her dreams were like. She'd never known sound. He said she dreamt in images and tremors. Walls and tables vibrated, that sort of thing. The whole world in her dreams had a bit of motion and instability to it.

That fascinates me.

The woman in the grocery store met my eyes on my second glance. I could sense some distrust from her, and it made me think three things:

1. She thought my look was to sign fear or disgust, something of an "Oh, oh dear god, there are DEAF people in my path!"

2. She thought I was faking my limp, perhaps even to mock her (or his) disability by faking one myself.

3. She or he was both deaf and had a limp. (Double whammy!)

Once upon a time, a beat up car passed my family's car on the highway. The absent back window had been replaced with a white sheet of plastic that was, by this point, breaking up, a piece of it fluttering behind the car. The vehicle was in need of a new muffler. The license plate had a handicap symbol. The plate's handle: YMELORD.

It was magical, that moment.

So I limp past the sign-language woman. The young man has yet to move. The woman stops signing. She watches me. In a David Lynch film, this is the moment that deep-welling synth-and-horn score intensifies.

As I pass, she sort of leans against the cereal shelves, just angles her body towards the tireless order of packaged goods. Yellow boxes. Blue boxes. Orange boxes.

It was a very streetlike gesture. As was the slow, seemingly sarcastic way in which she folded her arms--shoulders rising, forearms lifting her breasts, her head dropping a touch--all the while watching me.
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