You’re Not Listening

.           .           .

But it was not always easy. We watched a movie at my apartment, and when I turned on the captions, Madison handed me the popcorn bowl.

“I’m going home now,” she told me.

She came to the door the next morning, a box of donuts in her hands.

“I know you’re trying,” she told me. “I’m sorry.”

We ate some donuts, went biking, and napped.

.           .           .

Her hearing aids were small plastic snail shells, and she wore her hair down to hide them.

“They look so strange,” she explained. “People notice. And they stare, and they whisper and laugh.”

She put her hearing aids on the nightstand. The moment she turned away from me—before she could fall asleep—I whispered: “I like you, Madison. I like being with you.”

Her hair was down, and it covered her pillow. It hid her ears. She had nothing to hide.


.           .           .

We bowled with some friends I’ve known since high school, but we were late to the bowling alley. When I came to her house, she wore white socks and a bathrobe.

“I don’t know what to wear,” she told me.

“I doubt they’ll care what you wear. Wear that robe.”

“But I want them to like me.”

“I know they’ll like you,” I said.

“No, you don’t.”

She chose dark jeans and a cable-knit sweater. She bowled a 187, and between turns she talked to Holly about the wage gap. She split a pitcher with Mark. Whitney wanted to know where the sweater was from, and when Madison bowled her third strike:

“We like her,” Holly told me. “She’s smarter than the women you usually date.”

“And she’s nicer,” said Whitney. “She’s sweet.”

She used a child’s violet ball and spun the ball down the lane. We bowled a second game also, but Whitney had to get home because her mother was watching her children. We said goodbye to my friends, and I drove Madison home.

“They liked you,” I told her.

“Did they really?”

“They did.”

“I liked them, too. I liked meeting your friends.”

Later that evening, she asked me: “When you talk to your friends about me, do you call me your deaf girlfriend?”

I was walking her to her door then.

“No,” I told her. “I call you Madison.”