Alice.

The girl does not move. Her gaze remains fixed on the particularly bright line of green that she has drawn to represent the horizon. A vibrant green, it makes her smile. This is her favorite color and she will use it again, often, and with abandon. This is a color she will throw herself into as if it were a place of sanctuary.

The drawing is taking shape: a meadow in which one could be happily lost, a solitary tree with shade that seems to embrace the earth. Thick shade, the kind that blocks out every attempt by the sun to reach the ground, so much that the ground is mostly dirt. Few blades of grass have managed to emerge, victorious but lonely. She draws this now, choosing umber, another favorite. She scribbles the layer of brown over the green, an oval underneath the tree, and imagines herself lying there.

Alice.

Still her name does not register. The hearing aids on her ear have been turned off, because when she draws she wants to draw. She does not want or need the distraction of sound when she gives herself over to her art.

She is beginning to start on the sky with that ubiquitous blue that is somehow a constant familiar color even though she hasn’t seen a sky that is quite that blue, yet the choice is never tiresome, and she feels the hand upon her shoulder. A quick and firm shake she identifies in the blink of an eye as coming from the hand of her mother. She turns, eyes loathe to leave the friendliness of the world she is crafting from crayon, rests her gaze upon her mother’s own, then focuses on her mother’s lips.

“Yeah?” She says. A soft, unconfident voice, tinged with the accent she is not yet aware of. She watches her mother speak, not daring to look away.

Alice, I was calling you.

Her mother leans forward and checks Alice’s hearing aids, and Alice braces herself for the scolding. She feels the sound return, a rude awakening of senses, and shifts uncomfortably.

You’ve turned them off again. How many times, Alice? How many.

But her mother has already turned away and is walking, still talking to Alice, still talking in the way that one talks when one expects to be heard without fail. Alice hears her now, the unclear jumble of spoken words meshing together into one. She catches only one word, and catches it at the same time the scents of garlic bread and spaghetti hit her nose: eat.

Later that night, after her mother has turned off the lights and she’s left alone in her room, she lies on her back staring up at the ceiling. She likes to do this each night, no matter how tired she might be, because falling asleep to the sight of the plastic glow-in-the-dark stars has always made her feel comforted. Her hearing aids sit on the nightstand, squashed by her book, and she notices the returning hum that always penetrates the silence. It is a low sound that she does not actually hear, but it fills her mind nevertheless, and she is lulled to sleep.

***

Monday morning, much too early to bother looking at the clock, but she is already in school. The day has begun much like it always has, with the reluctant donning of the hearing aid she must strap onto her chest, as if she were some animal that needed to be restrained. She loathes this one, far more than her own, for the straps confine her and the wires snag easily on things. She hates, too, how the hearing children, usually boys, will get their hands on the microphone and have their fun with her. They hoot and babble into the microphone, more zoo animals than students. As if she were nothing but entertainment, and she often fantasizes about shoving these hearing aids under the wheels of the Principal’s 1957 Dodge Coronet, the candy-colored white and green car that’s always parked near the edge of the blacktop. She imagines the hearing aids, all of them, will be turned to dust under such a magical car as that.

For now she tries to ignore it and learn, though her teacher’s voice means nothing to her. It is a jumble of noises that make no sense until she lipreads, and only then can she make any headway. Yet Mrs. Yarrow continues to turn her back quite often, to write on the chalkboard, and she is lost.

She is used to feeling lost, though she does not find the words to express this feeling. It sinks within her, a deep feeling, unshakeable, and sours a morning.

A note is dropped on her desk and she sees her friend Erin dart back into her seat before Mrs Yarrow notices. Erin understands her, far more than most do, and she smiles at Erin as she opens the note. She keeps it out of sight, below the desk, and keeps a watch on Mrs. Yarrow writing out the week’s vocabulary in that sublime script that seems impossibly neat.

The note reads, in a scrunched handwriting: New deaf kid in Mrs. Gilbert’s class.

Alice shoots a look at Erin, eyebrows raised, and her friend nods emphatically.

She finds herself smiling, the sour morning fading away, and Alice thinks to herself that it might be a good day after all.

Read Part Two


This is a work of fiction. All rights reserved for the author, J. Parrish Lewis. Do not reprint or reproduce in any form without permission of the author.