Title: A Silent Life
Prompt – Imagine you’ve lost one of your senses.
Sense lost = hearing.
Vibrant colours, alluring smells, a cool breeze, people and silence. My hands brush the top of the lush grass and my toes wriggle at the ticklish feeling. I gaze around the circle of adults, my parents paying more attention to my aunts and uncles rather than to me. Their mouths move but I hear no sound flow from their lips. I notice one of my uncles nudge my dad, whose lips subtly turn up at the corners, his eyes scrunch closed and throws his head back, grinning wider and then everyone copies them. They’re all laughing, but I missed the joke. I’d ask them to repeat it but there’s no point. I still wouldn’t be able to understand. I turn my head to look at my cousins, running around wildly, shooting long strings of icy water from water guns, having the time of their lives. And then there’s me. The loose end. They don’t acknowledge me because they don’t know how to communicate with me. I close my eyes, tilting my head up to the sky and greedily inhale the smell of freshly cut grass accompanied with the scent of meat cooking on the barbecue. The sun’s rays fill me with a different kind of delight; I don’t feel that alone with the comforting touch – the sympathetic embrace of the bright, nimble disc in the sky.
I’m a person on my own island amongst foreigners. I want to play but I’m not allowed. I don’t know why. I want to laugh, I want to find my voice, but I can’t. I don’t know how. A soft brush against my shoulder drags me out of my thoughts again. My mum’s face is there; she looks happy. Her lips move. I watch them. Still nothing. Now, she frowns with frustration, but I offer up a smile to which her features soften again. Her hand slips into mine and I’m pulled up from the soft grass and directed into the house. I already miss the sun, so I struggle against her hold, desperately fighting to go back to my spot on the grass, to go back and feel the warmth and the breeze. However, I’m held in my spot by her steel grip and she crouches to scowl at me. Her eyebrows are knotted in the middle and again her lips move but this time the movements are faster and sharper. She brings a finger to my face, waving it at me. I don’t understand. I just wanted to stay outside. Instead, I am dragged to a seat in the kitchen and am made to sit there. My brow adopts a similar frown as I look up at my mum whom simply shakes her head at me before heading back outside. Why does she get to go back? It’s not fair.
Spotting the fish tank in the corner of the far kitchen counter, I slink silently past the glass doors to get there. The small fish whiz around in the water, as fast as lightning bolts, as though they are playing a game. Flashes of joyful yellows, mysterious blues and emerald greens rush around in the clear liquid. Then, I see a few scales of glistening orange appear from inside the tank’s little shipwreck. The lonely fish wanders out. Orange, the goldfish, is my favourite. I can relate to her because the other fish don’t seem to pay much attention to her either. Orange simply stays in the shipwreck and observes the world as time passes by. Sometimes, I like to imagine that I was also a fish like Orange. That way we could be lonely together.
A gentle tap on my shoulder draws me away from the fish tank and I turn to see dad grinning at me. Whilst we can’t communicate, dad seems to spend more time trying to help and understand me. We both try but more often than not we end up pointing at everything. A softer smile ghosts his lips again as he picks me up to carry me to my seat at the table. Dad goes to sit at the opposite end, but I point to the chair next to mine. Through a tiny action and a gaze, he seems to understand and takes a seat next to me. Soon, everyone else files into the kitchen and again my dad’s attention is off me and back on talking. Fidgeting in my seat, I begin to mess with the salt and pepper as my legs dangle off my chair. Although, my ‘fun’ doesn’t last long before the condiments are taken from my hands and are replaced by a knife and fork. A plate of food is put down in front of me too. I briefly glance at my family. Dinner is always quiet. For me anyway. Everyone laughs and I just stare off blankly.
I missed the joke again.
Disclaimer: I, myself, am not deaf.
While the story was based off of a prompt, it was also loosely based off a short film I saw a couple of years ago called The Silent Child (website linked). It was a really moving short film and was successful in making me cry. The heart-breaking ending only made me wonder why sign language wasn’t a compulsory course in schools if 78% of deaf children attend mainstream schools.
I was lucky enough to gain a very basic knowledge of sign language as one of my school’s teachers ran it as a club but I would love the chance in future to do a full sign language course. I think it’s a valuable skill to have and I wish everybody learnt it!
If you have any constructive criticism, please, don’t be shy to comment 🙂