You’re Not Listening

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Her parents lived in a house in the suburbs. She’d visit them sometimes but didn’t ask me to come.

“I’ve never brought anyone home,” she told me. “They’d make a big deal about it.”

“I don’t mind, I lied. I’ll meet them whenever you’re ready.”

“I know they’d like you. They’d know that you’re kind.”

I said her name to myself when I missed her, and I started watching sign language videos. I learned the alphabet and numbers. I learned The weather is nice. I learned to ask someone’s name and their birthday. I learned Good morningGoodnightHow are you?

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In her house one evening, she pruned a fern by a window.

“I really like plants,” she told me. “I like everything about them.”

We’d just finished dinner. Our empty plates were on the table with a half-eaten tray of vegan casserole, and as I carried the plates to the kitchen, I asked her: “If you like plants so much, why do you eat them?” She cut brown leaves from the fern with her scissors. “Because I like animals better.”

She gave me a note the next morning.

I know when I kiss you that you’re still eating meatand it’s fine. Eat your meat. I forgive you. But this cow is very disappointed in you! She’d drawn a sketch—a cow with big, weeping eyes.

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She hated small, crowded places.

“It gets too loud, she explained, and I hear nothing but static. I take my hearing aids out. I just stand.”

We went to a bar downtown because her colleagues recommended it, but it was much busier than we expected.

“This is terrible,” she told me.

“We can leave if you want.”

“I didn’t hear.”

“We can leave.”

“Turn and face me.”

“We can leave if you want.”

“Yes, I want to. We should wait a bit first. Have some drinks.”

She took her hearing aids out, and we sat close to a window. I saved her place when she went to the restroom. The bar was busier then, and it was noisy and hot. She had to fight her way back through the bar-crowd. I must have signed without thinking.

I asked her, Go? Should we go? 

She looked confused. Then she stopped and signed Yes.