You’re Not Listening

.           .           .

We held hands as we walked through the botanical gardens. We looked at ferns and rhododendrons, and she told me:

“I think I want cochlear implants.”

“Cochlear implants?” I asked her.

“They’re electronic,” she told me. “They bypass the ear and deliver sound to the nerves. I could hear with them, I think. I’d hear better.”

“I know what they are,” I said.

She showed me the flowering blooms of a hibiscus tree.

“They’re expensive,” she told me, “but some insurance plans will pay for them. If I get a new job somewhere–”

We went to the desert garden—a room with yucca and creosote bush. We stood near a small San Pedro cactus, and as I wondered about my medical plan—what it covered, what it didn’t—she watched some children ahead of us run through the room.

“I want to wake in the morning and hear the birds singing. When you wake, do you ever hear birds?”

I looked at a tangle of mesquite and told her: “I never sleep with the windows open.”

.           .           .

She could be difficult sometimes. So could I. When we went out to dinner together and I still ordered meat, she told me: “I wish you wouldn’t do that. I think it’s awful that you do that.”

“That’s fine, but I’ll eat what I want to. I’m cutting back.”

“But that isn’t enough.”

And it bothered her that I drove more than I needed to.

“Why don’t you bike to work?” she asked me.

“Driving is terrible for the environment, and it ruins the atmosphere.”

It was late November then. There was frost on the windows. I pointed toward the door and told her:

“It’s cold outside, Madison. I’d rather drive if it’s cold.”

“But you drive in the middle of summer.”

“It’s much too hot in the summer to bike.”

But I biked to the park with her when it was ninety degrees out, and we brought bread from her house to give to ducks at the pond. We tore some slices of bread and threw the bread to the ducks, and with her hand in the bread bag she told me: “You don’t appreciate it.”


“What you hear.”

I disappointed her without meaning to. When I signed to her across the living room one night—she was on the end of the couch; I was standing in the doorway—she frowned at me with an unmistakable look of frustration, and signing to me with slow, contemptuous gestures: “You’re not listening, she told me.”