|This month’s photo inspiration thanks to the awesome Woah, Molly!– cheers.|
In the sticky, fan–whirring humidity of her small bedroom, she changed out of her day clothes, smudged with dirt or flour or biscuit dough, into a pair of short shorts and an over-sized, faded t-shirt. Long, straight black hair was scraped from a sweaty neck and forehead, secured with a thick rubber band into a swishing ponytail that tickled the skin between her shoulder blades. She pulled on socks and, finally, strapped on runners, sleek and silver and walled with airy breathy nylon, with all the reverence they deserved– her prized possession, that she had cajoled and begged and cried and threw tantrums for; until her mother finally relented, on the condition that they be kept well hidden from her father’s eyes.
Sneaking past the lounge room where her dad executed his traditional afternoon snooze, postured in one of the worn, comfortable lounge chairs, head back, snoring squelchily; she barely paused to give the man- as reluctantly as her mind deemed to call him that- much thought at all. She might have been disgusted by him, the tilt of his head indicating arrogance even as he slept; but she wasn’t sure how to hate him, how to be angry at him. She regarded him in the same way he’d always viewed her– a nothing, a non–entity, an unfortunate inclusion into one’s life that should really be ignored if one can manage that.
He didn’t understand her at all, she knew that– literally and metaphorically… how could he, when they spoke two completely different languages?
His daughter had been the apple of his eye for her earliest of years, a cute chubby dark haired toddler he doted upon. It was only as she got grew and became that bit older that her father– her mother as well, of course, and her brother, but most especially her father– noticed that there was something.. well.. different about her. That she just wasn’t talking, verbalising the way other children of her age were. That she never responded to her name being called, nor to loud noises… unless that loud noise was accompanied by a tangible vibration.
He gave up on his daughter, and began pretending he’d felt that way all along, the day the doctors told him that his baby girl was deaf, and, in the traditional sense, mute. He looked at her… and he saw someone completely different to the daughter he’d seen before. Why.. all those times he thought he was telling his child his deepest secrets, spilling his soul to a little girl who stared, wide-eyed, back in return…she had been unable to hear him. Never mind that, at the age of just one or two, she would never have been able to understand him anyway. It felt, stupidly, like a betrayal of trust; and the irrationality and immaturity of that thought shamed him into turning away from his daughter- and this new language she was forming with her hands- almost entirely.
His wife (traitor!), she had learnt to speak with her hands too, fingers forming words and emotions and concepts at a pace that frightened him. His son, absorbing a new language the way only a child can, was again chatting and laughing with his older sister within weeks.
But her father remained silent, afraid, embarrassed and ashamed, much more of himself than of his daughter. The older she became, the longer they went without exchanging a word, and the more he withdrew… until, suddenly,one day, she was a stranger, and his anger at that made him treat her as a person less worthy of being here at all. He covered his pain with insults and slurs that she didn’t need to be able to hear to know exactly what was was being said. He kept her fed, allowed her medical attention and schooling and the things society required him to do… but outside of meeting basic moral expectations, she simply existed within the house. Luxuries were withheld from her. This ridiculous signed language was not to be spoken in the family home, he said. His authority was total, in that none of them spoke with their hands when he was about, in presence or eye–shot… but when he was absent, asleep or otherwise engaged; mother, brother and daughter whispered with their fingers, keeping their signing space small and slight so not to attract the father of the household’s attentions.
She crept past the sleeping, snoring man, regarding him without hate, because she wasn’t sure how to feel that way, how to conjure that emotion.
When things got much, when the words she wanted to say to her father begin to spin themselves from her hands without her permission… she crept out of the house. She tiptoed down the creaking front steps. She stopped for a moment, just a quick pause in time to take in the miles and acres, the seemingly unending red earth that stretched from the verandah of their house to the bow of the horizon in the distance… not a soul nor a building for miles.
When the thoughts user head got too loud… she ran.